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Applied and Environmental Microbiology

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In aquatic ecosystems, carbon (C) availability strongly influences nitrogen (N) dynamics. One manifestation of this linkage is the importance in the dissolved organic matter (DOM) pool of dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), which can serve as both a C and an N source, yet our knowledge of how specific properties of DOM influence N dynamics are limited. To empirically examine the impact of labile DOM on the responses of bacteria to DON and dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN), bacterial abundance and community composition were examined in controlled laboratory microcosms subjected to various combinations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), DON, and DIN treatments. Bacterial communities that had colonized glass beads incubated in a stream were treated with various glucose concentrations and combinations of inorganic and organic N (derived from algal exudate, bacterial protein, and humic matter). The results revealed a strong influence of C availability on bacterial utilization of DON and DIN, with preferential uptake of DON under low C concentrations. Bacterial DON uptake was affected by the concentration and by its chemical nature (labile versus recalcitrant). Labile organic N sources (algal exudate and bacterial protein) were utilized equally well as DIN as an N source, but this was not the case for the recalcitrant humic matter DON treatment. Clear differences in bacterial community composition among treatments were observed based on terminal restriction fragment length polymorphisms (T-RFLP) of 16S rRNA genes. C, DIN, and DON treatments likely drove changes in bacterial community composition that in turn affected the rates of DON and DIN utilization under various C concentrations.

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