Taking the pulse of ocean microbes

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Science  11 Jul 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6193, pp. 134-135
DOI: 10.1126/science.1256578

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Far from land, relatively few types of very small microbes thrive in the warm, nutrient-poor surface waters of the subtropical gyres. Here, the cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus dominates photosynthesis and generates a sizable fraction of the organic matter that fuels the growth of abundant bacteria, including Pelagibacter and a number of uncultured strains (1, 2). On page 207 of this issue, Ottesen et al. (3) use high-resolution sampling to document an exquisitely tight coupling between light-driven gene expression patterns of Prochlorococcus and gene expression patterns of other members of the bacterial community in surface waters at Station Aloha in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (see the photo and figure). The study illustrates the power of combining at-sea observation technology with DNA sequencing to understand marine microbial processes.