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Hans-Peter Grossart, Thomas Kiørboe, Kam Tang and Helle Ploug (2003)

Bacterial Colonization of Particles: Growth and Interactions

Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 69(6):3500-3509.

Marine particles in the ocean are exposed to diverse bacterial communities, and colonization and growth of attached bacteria are important processes in the degradation and transformation of the particles. In an earlier study, we showed that the initial colonization of model particles by individual bacterial strains isolated from marine aggregates was a function of attachment and detachment. In the present study, we have investigated how this colonization process was further affected by growth and interspecific interactions among the bacteria. Long-term incubation experiments showed that growth dominated over attachment and detachment after a few hours in controlling the bacterial population density on agar particles. In the absence of grazing mortality, this growth led to an equilibrium population density consistent with the theoretical limit due to oxygen diffusion. Interspecific interaction experiments showed that the presence of some bacterial strains (“residents”) on the agar particles either increased or decreased the colonization rate of other strains (“newcomers”). Comparison between an antibiotic-producing strain and its antibiotic-free mutant showed no inhibitory effect on the newcomers due to antibiotic production. On the contrary, hydrolytic activity of the antibiotic-producing strain appeared to benefit the newcomers and enhance their colonization rate. These results show that growth- and species-specific interactions have to be taken into account to adequately describe bacterial colonization of marine particles. Changes in colonization pattern due to such small-scale processes may have profound effects on the transformation and fluxes of particulate matter in the ocean.

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