Many areas of the ocean are nutrient-poor yet support large microbial populations, leading to intense competition for and recycling of nutrients. Organic phosphonates are frequently found in marine waters, but require specialist enzymes for catabolism. Previous studies have shown that the genes which encode these enzymes in marine systems are under Pho regulon control and so are repressed by inorganic phosphate. This has led to the conclusion that phosphonates are recalcitrant in much of the ocean where phosphorus is not limiting despite the degradative genes being common throughout the marine environment. Here we challenge this paradigm and show, for the first time, that bacteria isolated from marine samples have the ability to mineralise 2-aminoethylphosphonate, the most common biogenic marine aminophosphonate, via substrate-inducible gene regulation rather than via Pho-regulated metabolism. Substrate-inducible, Pho-independent 2-aminoethylphosphonate catabolism therefore represents a previously unrecognised component of the oceanic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles.
- marine environment
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Geochemistry and Petrology