Nitrogen (N) is the major limiting nutrient for phytoplankton growth and productivity in large parts of the world's oceans. Differential preferences for specific N substrates may be important in controlling phytoplankton community composition. To date, there is limited information on how specific N substrates influence the composition of naturally occurring microbial communities. We investigated the effect of nitrate ((Formula presented.)), ammonium ((Formula presented.)), and urea on microbial and phytoplankton community composition (cell abundances and 16S rRNA gene profiling) and functioning (photosynthetic activity, carbon fixation rates) in the oligotrophic waters of the North Pacific Ocean. All N substrates tested significantly stimulated phytoplankton growth and productivity. Urea resulted in the greatest (>300%) increases in chlorophyll a (<0.06 μg L−1 and ∼0.19 μg L−1 in the control and urea addition, respectively) and productivity (<0.4 μmol C L−1 d−1 and ∼1.4 μmol C L−1 d−1 in the control and urea addition, respectively) at two experimental stations, largely due to increased abundances of Prochlorococcus (Cyanobacteria). Two abundant clades of Prochlorococcus, High Light I and II, demonstrated similar responses to urea, suggesting this substrate is likely an important N source for natural Prochlorococcus populations. In contrast, the heterotrophic community composition changed most in response to (Formula presented.). Finally, the time and magnitude of response to N amendments varied with geographic location, likely due to differences in microbial community composition and their nutrient status. Our results provide support for the hypothesis that changes in N supply would likely favor specific populations of phytoplankton in different oceanic regions and thus, affect both biogeochemical cycles and ecological processes.