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New study: Microbial metabolites in the marine carbon cycle

Alan Flurry

A new study led UGA Foundation Distinguished Professor in the department of marine sciences and member of the National Academy of Sciences Mary Ann Moran describes the current 'state of the art' of studying microbial metabolites, and sets out some new approaches for further investigation.

The new paper was published last week in the journal Nature Microbiology:

One-quarter of photosynthesis-derived carbon on Earth rapidly cycles through a set of short-lived seawater metabolites that are generated from the activities of marine phytoplankton, bacteria, grazers and viruses. Here we discuss the sources of microbial metabolites in the surface ocean, their roles in ecology and biogeochemistry, and approaches that can be used to analyse them from chemistry, biology, modelling and data science. Although microbial-derived metabolites account for only a minor fraction of the total reservoir of marine dissolved organic carbon, their flux and fate underpins the central role of the ocean in sustaining life on Earth.

The paper is the first publication from the new $25 million National Science Foundation Center, the Center for Chemical Currencies of a Microbial Planet. The study includes all the science center PIs as authors, including Moran and Art Edison from UGA. 

Image courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

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