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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1996 Dec; 62(12): 4374–4380.
PMCID: PMC1388997

Potential Significance of Lysogeny to Bacteriophage Production and Bacterial Mortality in Coastal Waters of the Gulf of Mexico


The potential effect that induction of lysogenic bacteria has on bacteriophage production and bacterial mortality in coastal waters was investigated, and we present estimates for the percentage of lysogenic cells in a natural aquatic bacterial community. Various concentrations of mitomycin C and exposure times to UV C radiation (UV-C) (wavelength of 254 nm) were used to induce the lytic cycle in lysogenic cells of natural communities of marine bacteria. UV-C treatment occasionally resulted in phage production, but phage production induced by UV-C was always less than that caused by the addition of mitomycin C. There was no evidence that high growth rates of bacteria resulted in lysogenic phage production. The burst size of cells induced by mitomycin C was determined by transmission electron microscopy and ranged from 11 to 45. Dividing the induced phage production by the burst size provided an estimate of the number of lysogenic bacterial cells, which ranged from 0.07 to 4.4% (average, 1.5%) of the total bacterial population. The percentages of lysogenic bacteria that were induced by mitomycin C were similar for samples collected nearshore from the pier of the Marine Science Institute (chlorophyll a, 1.6 to 2.9 (mu)g liter(sup-1)) and in relatively oligotrophic water (chlorophyll a, 0.2 to 0.9 (mu)g liter(sup-1)) collected 25 to 100 km offshore. By using a steady-state model, if all lysogenic bacteria were induced simultaneously, 0.14 to 8.8% (average, 3.0%) of the total bacterial mortality would result from induction of lysogenic cells. If mitomycin C induces all or the majority of lysogenized cells, our results imply that lysogenic phage production is generally not an important source of phage production or bacterial mortality in the coastal waters of the western Gulf of Mexico.

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Selected References

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