Image_3_Daylight-driven carbon exchange through a vertically structured microbial community.TIFF
Interactions between autotrophs and heterotrophs are central to carbon (C) exchange across trophic levels in essentially all ecosystems and metabolite exchange is a frequent mechanism for distributing C within spatially structured ecosystems. Yet, despite the importance of C exchange, the timescales at which fixed C is transferred in microbial communities is poorly understood. We employed a stable isotope tracer combined with spatially resolved isotope analysis to quantify photoautotrophic uptake of bicarbonate and track subsequent exchanges across a vertical depth gradient in a stratified microbial mat over a light-driven diel cycle. We observed that C mobility, both across the vertical strata and between taxa, was highest during periods of active photoautotrophy. Parallel experiments with 13C-labeled organic substrates (acetate and glucose) showed comparably less exchange of C within the mat. Metabolite analysis showed rapid incorporation of 13C into molecules that can both comprise a portion of the extracellular polymeric substances in the system and serve to transport C between photoautotrophs and heterotrophs. Stable isotope proteomic analysis revealed rapid C exchange between cyanobacterial and associated heterotrophic community members during the day with decreased exchange at night. We observed strong diel control on the spatial exchange of freshly fixed C within tightly interacting mat communities suggesting a rapid redistribution, both spatially and taxonomically, primarily during daylight periods.