Issue 9, 2019

Metallophores associated with Trichodesmium erythraeum colonies from the Gulf of Aqaba


Trichodesmium is a globally important marine nitrogen fixing cyanobacteria which forms colonies and utilizes atmospherically derived dust as a source for the limiting micro-nutrient iron. Here we report the identification of metallophores isolated from incubations of natural Trichodesmium colonies collected from the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. Three of our compounds were identified as the ferrioxamine siderophores B, E, and G. The remaining fifteen metallophores had mass to charge ratios that, to our knowledge, are not common to known siderophores. Putative sum formulas suggest most of these compounds were not structurally related to each other. We also found that the novel metallophores readily formed complexes with aluminium and were less specific for iron than the ferrioxamines. In our incubations of Trichodesmium colonies, the abundance of ten of the novel metallophores positively correlated with Trichodesmium biomass, but not with bacterial biomass, whilst ferrioxamine siderophores were more strongly associated with bacterial biomass. We identified ferrioxamines and our novel metallophores in filtered surface seawater samples from the Gulf of Aqaba. However, our novel metallophores were only observed in the surface seawater sample collected at the time of highest Trichodesmium abundance, while ferrioxamines were observed even when Trichodesmium was not present. We hypothesize that the novel metallophores were specifically associated with Trichodesmium colonies. Together with the bacterially produced ferrioxamines they likely contribute to a distinctive “ligandosphere” surrounding the Trichodesmium colonies, with potential implications for metal homeostasis within the colony environment.

Graphical abstract: Metallophores associated with Trichodesmium erythraeum colonies from the Gulf of Aqaba

Supplementary files

Article information

Article type
17 May 2019
27 Aug 2019
First published
27 Aug 2019

Metallomics, 2019,11, 1547-1557