||Abstract Bacterial assemblages from subsurface (100 m depth), meso- (200?1000 m depth) and bathy-pelagic (below 1000 m depth) zones at 10 stations along a North Atlantic Ocean transect from 60°N to 5°S were characterized using massively parallel pyrotag sequencing of the V6 region of the 16S rRNA gene (V6 pyrotags). In a dataset of more than 830 000 pyrotags, we identified 10 780 OTUs of which 52% were singletons. The singletons accounted for less than 2% of the OTU abundance, whereas the 100 and 1000 most abundant OTUs represented 80% and 96% respectively of all recovered OTUs. Non-metric Multi-Dimensional Scaling and Canonical Correspondence Analysis of all the OTUs excluding the singletons revealed a clear clustering of the bacterial communities according to the water masses. More than 80% of the 1000 most abundant OTUs corresponded to Proteobacteria of which 55% were Alphaproteobacteria, mostly composed of the SAR11 cluster. Gammaproteobacteria increased with depth and included a relatively large number of OTUs belonging to Alteromonadales and Oceanospirillales. The bathypelagic zone showed higher taxonomic evenness than the overlying waters, albeit bacterial diversity was remarkably variable. Both abundant and low-abundance OTUs were responsible for the distinct bacterial communities characterizing the major deep-water masses. Taken together, our results reveal that deep-water masses act as bio-oceanographic islands for bacterioplankton leading to water mass-specific bacterial communities in the deep waters of the Atlantic.