Detection of photoactive siderophore biosynthetic genes in the marine environment

Astrid Gärdes, Christopher Triana, Shady A. Amin, David H. Green, Ariel Romano, Lyndsay Trimble, Carl J. Carrano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Iron is an essential element for oceanic microbial life but its low bioavailability limits microorganisms in large areas of the oceans. To acquire this metal many marine bacteria produce organic chelates that bind and transport iron (siderophores). While it has been hypothesized that the global production of siderophores by heterotrophic bacteria and some cyanobacteria constitutes the bulk of organic ligands binding iron in the ocean because stability constants of siderophores and these organic ligands are similar, and because ligand concentrations rise sharply in response to iron fertilization events, direct evidence for this proposal is lacking. This lack is due to the difficulty in characterizing these ligands due both to their extremely low concentrations and their highly heterogeneous nature. The situation for characterizing photoactive siderophores in situ is more problematic because of their expected short lifetimes in the photic zone. An alternative approach is to make use of high sensitivity molecular technology (qPCR) to search for siderophore biosynthesis genes related to the production of photoactive siderophores. In this way one can access their "biochemical potential" and utilize this information as a proxy for the presence of these siderophores in the marine environment. Here we show, using qPCR primers designed to detect biosynthetic genes for the siderophores vibrioferrin, petrobactin and aerobactin that such genes are widespread and based on their abundance, the "biochemical potential" for photoactive siderophore production is significant. Concurrently we also briefly examine the microbial biodiversity responsible for such production as a function of depth and location across a North Atlantic transect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-516
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Biosynthesis
  • Genes
  • Iron
  • Marine bacteria
  • Photoactive
  • Siderophore
  • qPCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Metals and Alloys


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