Prokaryotic extracellular enzymatic activity, abundance, heterotrophic production and respiration were determined in the meso- and bathypelagic (sub)tropical North Atlantic. While prokaryotic heterotrophic production (PHP) decreased from the lower euphotic layer to the bathypelagic waters by two orders of magnitude, prokaryotic abundance and cell-specific PHP decreased only by one order of magnitude. In contrast to cell-specific PHP, cell-specific extracellular enzymatic activity (alpha- and beta-glucosidase, leucine aminopeptidase, alkaline phosphatase) increased with depth as did cell-specific respiration rates. Cell-specific alkaline phosphatase activity increased from the intermediate water masses to the deep waters up to fivefold. Phosphate concentrations, however, varied only by a factor of two between the different water masses, indicating that phosphatase activity is not related to phosphate availability in the deep waters. Generally, cell-specific extracellular enzymatic activities were inversely related to cell-specific prokaryotic leucine incorporation. Thus, it is apparent that the utilization of deep ocean organic matter is linked to higher cell-specific extracellular enzymatic activity and respiration and lower cell-specific PHP than in surface waters.
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