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Nitrogen is a key nutrient for land plants and phytoplankton in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The model alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii can grow efficiently on several inorganic nitrogen sources (e.g. ammonium, nitrate, nitrite) as well as many amino acids. In this study, we show that Chlamydomonas is unable to use proline, hydroxyproline and peptides that contain these amino acids. However, we discovered that algal growth on these substrates is supported in association with Methylobacterium spp., and that a mutualistic carbon-nitrogen metabolic exchange between Chlamydomonas and Methylobacterium spp. is established. Specifically, the mineralization of these amino acids and peptides by Methylobacterium spp. produces ammonium that can be assimilated by Chlamydomonas, and CO2 photosynthetically fixed by Chlamydomonas yields glycerol that can be assimilated by Methylobacterium. As Chlamydomonas is an algal ancestor to land plants and Methylobacterium is a plant growth-promoting bacterium, this new model of mutualism may facilitate insights into the ecology and evolution of plant-bacterial interactions and design principles of synthetic ecology.