Nitrogen frequently limits oceanic photosynthesis and the availability of inorganic nitrogen sources in the surface oceans is shifting with global change. We evaluated the potential for abrupt increases in inorganic N sources to induce cascading effects on dissolved organic matter (DOM) and microbial communities in the surface ocean. We collected water from 5 m depth in the central North Pacific and amended duplicate 20 liter polycarbonate carboys with nitrate or ammonium, tracking planktonic carbon fixation, DOM production, DOM composition and microbial community structure responses over 1 week relative to controls. Both nitrogen sources stimulated bulk phytoplankton, bacterial and DOM production and enriched Synechococcus and Flavobacteriaceae; ammonium enriched for oligotrophic Actinobacteria OM1 and Gammaproteobacteria KI89A clades while nitrate enriched Gammaproteobacteria SAR86, SAR92 and OM60 clades. DOM resulting from both N enrichments was more labile and stimulated growth of copiotrophic Gammaproteobacteria (Alteromonadaceae and Oceanospirillaceae) and Alphaproteobacteria (Rhodobacteraceae and Hyphomonadaceae) in weeklong dark incubations relative to controls. Our study illustrates how nitrogen pulses may have direct and cascading effects on DOM composition and microbial community dynamics in the open ocean.