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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1997 Nov; 63(11): 4237–4242.
PMCID: PMC168743

Numerical dominance of a group of marine bacteria in the alpha-subclass of the class Proteobacteria in coastal seawater.


A cluster of marine bacteria within the alpha-3 subclass of the class Proteobacteria accounted for up to 28% of the 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) sequences in seawater samples from the coast of the southeastern United States. Two independent oligonucleotide probes targeting 16S rDNA of this "marine alpha" cluster indicate that the group dominates bacterioplankton communities in estuarine and nearshore regions of the southeastern U.S. coast. Marine alpha bacteria decline predictably in abundance with decreasing salinity along estuarine transsects and are not detectable in low-salinity (5%) or freshwater samples. Sequences of 16S rDNA obtained from seawater by PCR with one group-specific oligonucleotide as a primer confirm that the oligonucleotide targets only members of this phylogenetic cluster. Likewise, sequences of 16S rDNA obtained from seawater by PCR with several different pairs of nonspecific primers show an unusually high abundance of marine alpha sequences (52 to 84%) among the clones, which possibly indicates a PCR bias toward the group. Members of the marine alpha group were readily cultured from coastal seawater, accounting for 40% of the colonies isolated on low-nutrient marine agar, based on hybridizations with the group-specific 16S rDNA probe and on sequence analysis. This is the first description of a numerically dominant cluster of coastal bacteria, identified by molecular techniques, that can be readily cultured and studied in the laboratory.

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Selected References

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