Diatoms secrete a significant amount of polysaccharides, which can serve as a critical organic carbon source for bacteria. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill exposed the Gulf of Mexico to substantial amounts of oil that also impacted the phytoplankton community. Increased production of exopolymeric substances was observed after this oil spill. Polysaccharides make up a major fraction of exopolymeric substances; however, their physiological role during an oil spill remains poorly understood. Here, we analyzed the role of polysaccharides in the growth and physiology of the oil-sensitive diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana and how they shape the surrounding bacterial community and its activity in the presence of oil. We found that inhibition of chrysolaminarin synthesis had a negative effect on the growth of T. pseudonana and intracellular monosaccharide accumulation, which in turn suppressed photosynthesis by feedback inhibition. In addition, by acting as a carbon reserve, chrysolaminarin helped in the recovery of T. pseudonana in the presence of oil. Inhibition of chrysolaminarin synthesis also influenced the bacterial community in the free-living fraction but not in the phycosphere. Exposure to oil alone led to increased abundance of oil-degrading bacterial genera and the activity of exoenzyme lipase. Our data show that chrysolaminarin synthesis plays an important role in the growth and survival of T. pseudonana in the presence of oil, and its inhibition can influence the composition and activity of the surrounding bacterial community.

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