Alkaline phosphatase activity and regulation in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre

Solange Duhamel, Sonya T. Dyhrman, David M. Karl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Alkaline phosphatase (AP) activity (APA) was measured at several stations in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre in July 2008, and in a series of nutrient addition experiments: nitrate plus ammonium (+N) or phosphate (+P), to study APA regulation and to evaluate the capacity of picoplankton organisms (i.e., in the 0.2-2-μm size range) to access the AP-hydrolyzable fraction of dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP). The data indicated a primary limitation of the biomass by nitrogen. Both total (measured with a soluble DOP analog) and cell-specific (measured with the enzyme-labeled fluorescence [ELF] phosphate cell labeling method) APA were enhanced in the +N samples and reduced in the +P samples, suggesting that DOP is an important resource for picoplankton nutrition. Cell-free APA represented > 65% of the APA in all samples, but its contribution to total APA significantly decreased in the +N treatment as microbial biomass increased. In the +N treatment, < 5% and up to 96% of the cells in the heterotrophic bacteria-enriched and picophytoplankton-enriched fractions, respectively, were ELF-alcohol-labeled after 5 d. Following N enrichment, the microbial assemblage shifted from cell-free phosphatase dominated under N limitation and P stress (i.e., physiological response) to picophytoplankton-based phosphatase dominated under P limitation (i.e., production or growth rate limitation). If, as predicted, the ocean evolves towards P limitation, DOP availability would become of major importance to sustain productivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1414-1425
Number of pages12
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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