The enzymology of ocean global change

A small subset of marine microbial enzymes and surface transporters have a disproportionately important influence on the cycling of carbon and nutrients in the global ocean. As a result, they largely determine marine biological productivity and have been the focus of considerable research attention from microbial oceanographers. Like all biological catalysts, the activity of these keystone biomolecules is subject to control by temperature and pH, leaving the crucial ecosystem functions they support potentially vulnerable to anthropogenic environmental change. We summarize and discuss both consensus and conflicting evidence on the effects of sea surface warming and ocean acidification for five of these critical enzymes [carbonic anhydrase, ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RuBisCO), nitrogenase, nitrate reductase, and ammonia monooxygenase] and one important transporter (proteorhodopsin). Finally, we forecast how the responses of these few but essential biocatalysts to ongoing global change processes may ultimately help to shape the microbial communities and biogeochemical cycles of the future greenhouse ocean.

Hutchins D. A. & Sañudo-Wilhelmy S. A., in press. The enzymology of ocean global change. Annual Review of Marine Science. Article (subscription required).

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