The soluble B vitamins (B, B, and B) have long been recognized as playing a central metabolic role in marine phytoplankton and bacteria; however, the importance of these organic external metabolites in marine ecology has been largely disregarded, as most research has focused on inorganic nutrients and trace metals. Using recently available genomic data combined with culture-based surveys of vitamin auxotrophy (i.e., vitamin requirements), we show that this auxotrophy is widespread in the marine environment and occurs in both autotrophs and heterotrophs residing in oligotrophic and eutrophic environments. Our analysis shows that vitamins originate from the activities of some bacteria and algae and that taxonomic changes observed in marine phytoplankton communities could be the result of their specific vitamin requirements and/or vitamin availability. Dissolved vitamin concentration measurements show that large areas of the world ocean are devoid of B vitamins, suggesting that vitamin limitation could be important for the efficiency of carbon and nitrogen fixation in those regions.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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