Top abundant deep ocean heterotrophic bacteria can be retrieved by cultivation

Year: 2023 DOI:

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Sanz-Sáez, I., P. Sánchez, G. Salazar, S. Sunagawa, C. de Vargas, C. Bowler, M. B. Sullivan, P. Wincker, E. Karsenti, C. Pedrós-Alió, S. Agustí, T.Gojobori, C. M. Duarte, J. M. Gasol, O. Sánchez, and S.G. Acinas.  2023. Top abundant deep ocean heterotrophic bacteria can be retrieved by cultivation.  ISME Communications   3, 92,


Traditional culture techniques usually retrieve a small fraction of the marine microbial diversity, which mainly belong to the so-called rare biosphere. However, this paradigm has not been fully tested at a broad scale, especially in the deep ocean. Here, we examined the fraction of heterotrophic bacterial communities in photic and deep ocean layers that could be recovered by culture-dependent techniques at a large scale. We compared 16S rRNA gene sequences from a collection of 2003 cultured heterotrophic marine bacteria with global 16S rRNA metabarcoding datasets (16S TAGs) covering surface, mesopelagic and bathypelagic ocean samples that included 16 of the 23 samples used for isolation. These global datasets represent 60 322 unique 16S amplicon sequence variants (ASVs). Our results reveal a significantly higher proportion of isolates identical to ASVs in deeper ocean layers reaching up to 28% of the 16S TAGs of the bathypelagic microbial communities, which included the isolation of 3 of the top 10 most abundant 16S ASVs in the global bathypelagic ocean, related to the genera SulfitobacterHalomonas and Erythrobacter. These isolates contributed differently to the prokaryotic communities across different plankton size fractions, recruiting between 38% in the free-living fraction (0.2–0.8 µm) and up to 45% in the largest particles (20–200 µm) in the bathypelagic ocean. Our findings support the hypothesis that sinking particles in the bathypelagic act as resource-rich habitats, suitable for the growth of heterotrophic bacteria with a copiotroph lifestyle that can be cultured, and that these cultivable bacteria can also thrive as free-living bacteria.