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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1992 Mar;58(3):942-7.

Detection of the Light Organ Symbiont, Vibrio fischeri, in Hawaiian Seawater by Using lux Gene Probes.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089-0371.


Symbiotic bacteria that inhabit the light-emitting organ of the Hawaiian squid Euprymna scolopes are distinctive from typical Vibrio fischeri organisms in that they are not visibly luminous when grown in laboratory culture. Therefore, the abundance of these bacteria in seawater samples cannot be estimated simply by identifying them among luminous colonies that arise on nutrient agar plates. Instead, we have used luxR and polymerase chain reaction generated luxA gene probes to identify both luminous and non-visibly luminous V. fischeri colonies by DNA-DNA hybridization. The probes were specific, hybridizing at least 50 to 100 times more strongly to immobilized DNAs from V. fischeri strains than to those of pure cultures of other related species. Thus, even non-visibly luminous V. fischeri colonies could be identified among colonies obtained from natural seawater samples by their probe-positive reaction. Bacteria in seawater samples, obtained either within or distant from squid habitats, were collected on membrane filters and incubated until colonies appeared. The filters were then observed for visibly luminous V. fischeri colonies and hybridized with the lux gene probes to determine the number of total V. fischeri colonies (both luminous and non-visibly luminous). We detected no significant differences in the abundance of luminous V. fischeri CFU in any of the water samples observed (</=1 to 3 CFU/100 ml). However, probe-positive colonies of V. fischeri (up to 900 CFU/100 ml) were found only in seawater collected from within the natural habitats of the squids. A number of criteria were used to confirm that these probe-positive strains were indistinguishable from symbiotic V. fischeri. Therefore, the luxA and luxR gene probes were species specific and gave a reliable estimate of the number of culturable V. fischeri colonies in natural water samples.


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