The genetic diversity of photosynthetic picoeukaryotes was investigated in the South East Pacific Ocean. Genetic libraries of the plastid 16S rRNA gene were constructed on picoeukaryote populations sorted by flow cytometry, using two different primer sets, OXY107F/OXY1313R commonly used to amplify oxygenic organisms, and PLA491F/OXY1313R, biased towards plastids of marine algae. Surprisingly, the two sets revealed quite different photosynthetic picoeukaryote diversity patterns, which were moreover different from what we previously reported using the 18S rRNA nuclear gene as a marker. The first 16S primer set revealed many sequences related to Pelagophyceae and Dictyochophyceae, the second 16S primer set was heavily biased toward Prymnesiophyceae, while 18S sequences were dominated by Prasinophyceae, Chrysophyceae and Haptophyta. Primer mismatches with major algal lineages is probably one reason behind this discrepancy. However, other reasons, such as DNA accessibility or gene copy numbers, may be also critical. Based on plastid 16S rRNA gene sequences, the structure of photosynthetic picoeukaryotes varied along the BIOSOPE transect vertically and horizontally. In oligotrophic regions, Pelagophyceae, Chrysophyceae, and Prymnesiophyceae dominated. Pelagophyceae were prevalent at the DCM depth and Chrysophyceae at the surface. In mesotrophic regions Pelagophyceae were still important but Chlorophyta contribution increased. Phylogenetic analysis revealed a new clade of Prasinophyceae (clade 16S-IX), which seems to be restricted to hyper-oligotrophic stations. Our data suggest that a single gene marker, even as widely used as 18S rRNA, provides a biased view of eukaryotic communities and that the use of several markers is necessary to obtain a complete image
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