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Microb Ecol. 2003 Jan;45(1):29-38. Epub 2002 Nov 27.

gfp-Tagged cells as a useful tool to study the survival of Escherichia coli in the presence of the river microbial community.

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Faculdad de Ciencias, Departamento de Inmunología, Microbiología y Parasitología, Universidad del País Vasco, Apdo. 644, E-48080 Bilbao, Spain.


We have used an Escherichia coli strain DH5a containing pGreenTIR to study the survival of this bacterium in river water. As green fluorescence was maintained throughout survival both in dark and illuminated conditions, gfp-tagged E. coli cells were clearly distinguished from the microbial community of the river Butrón. gfp-tagged E. coli cells were monitored to estimate total density as well as the density of the culturable and viable (active electron transport system, CTC+) cells. Our results indicate that autochthonous bacteria and introduced E. coli are predated by flagellates. The autochthonous bacterial community behaves as predation-escaping prey, showing a tendency to cellular miniaturization and so maintaining the density of the population. In contrast, introduced E. coli behaves as predation-non-escaping prey, so E. coli was eliminated from the system. When comparing the elimination by predation of heat-treated and non-heated gfp-tagged E. coli cells we deduce that the flagellates do not discriminate between live and heat-treated cells. Finally, in the presence of the river microbial community, the E. coli cells appeared to be ingested before cellular deterioration could occur. Thus predation reduces the quantitative importance of the viable but nonculturable (VBNC) population of E. coli in the aquatic systems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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