Phytoplankton assemblage during the North Atlantic spring bloom assessed from functional gene analysis

Bettie Ward, Nicolas Van Oostende

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The spring bloom in the North Atlantic develops over a few weeks in response to the physical stabilization of the nutrient-replete water column and is one of the biggest biological signals on earth. The composition of the phytoplankton assemblage during the spring bloom of 2008 was evaluated, using a microarray, on the basis of functional genes that encode key enzymes in nitrogen and carbon assimilation in eukaryotic and prokaryotic phytoplankton. The phytoarray is described, and its usefulness and limitations are demonstrated in this application to analysis of a spring bloom event. Oligonucleotide archetype probes representing ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase (RuBisCO), nitrate reductase and nitrate transporter genes from major phytoplankton classes detected a diverse assemblage. For RuBisCO, the archetypes with strongest signals represented known phytoplankton groups, but for the nitrate-related genes, the major signals were not closely related to any known phytoplankton sequences. Most of the assemblage's components exhibited consistent temporal/spatial patterns. Yet, the strongest archetype signals often showed quite different patterns, indicating different ecological responses by the main players. The most abundant phytoplankton genera identified previously by microscopy, however, were not well represented on the microarray. The lack of sequence data for well-studied species, and the inability to identify organisms associated with functional gene sequences in the environment, still limits our understanding of phytoplankton ecology even in this relatively well-studied system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1135-1150
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Plankton Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


  • North Atlantic
  • functional gene
  • microarray
  • phytoplankton
  • spring bloom


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