Metabolic versatility of a novel N2-fixing Alphaproteobacterium isolated from a marine oxygen minimum zone
The N2-fixing (diazotrophic) community in marine ecosystems is dominated by non-cyanobacterial microorganisms. Yet, very little is known about their identity, function and ecological relevance due to a lack of cultured representatives. Here we report a novel heterotrophic diazotroph isolated from the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) off Peru. The new species belongs to the genus Sagittula (Rhodobacteraceae, Alphaproteobacteria) and its capability to fix N2 was confirmed in laboratory experiments. Genome sequencing revealed that it is a strict heterotroph with a high versatility in substrate utilization and energy acquisition mechanisms. Pathways for sulfide oxidation and nitrite reduction to nitrous oxide are encoded in the genome and might explain the presence throughout the Peruvian OMZ. The genome further indicates that this novel organism could be in direct interaction with other microbes or particles. NanoSIMS analyses were used to compare the metabolic potential of S. castanea with single-cell activity in situ; however, N2 fixation by this diazotroph could not be detected at the isolation site. While the biogeochemical impact of S. castanea is yet to be resolved, its abundance and widespread distribution suggests that its potential to contribute to the marine N input could be significant at a larger geographical scale.