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Environ Microbiol. 2007 Dec;9(12):3008-18.

Viruses and flagellates sustain apparent richness and reduce biomass accumulation of bacterioplankton in coastal marine waters.

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Department of Biology and Coastal Marine Laboratory, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China.


To gain a better understanding of the interactions among bacteria, viruses and flagellates in coastal marine ecosystems, we investigated the effect of viral lysis and protistan bacterivory on bacterial abundance, production and diversity [determined by 16S rRNA gene polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE)] in three coastal marine sites with different nutrient supplies in Hong Kong. Six experiments were set up using filtration and dilution methods to develop virus, flagellate and virus+flagellate treatments for natural bacterial populations. All three predation treatments had significant repressing effects on bacterial abundance. Bacterial production was significantly repressed by flagellates and both predators (flagellates and viruses). Bacterial apparent species richness (indicated as the number of DGGE bands) was always significantly higher in the presence of viruses, flagellates and both predators than in the predator-free control. Cluster analysis of the DGGE patterns showed that the effects of viruses and flagellates on bacterial community structure were relatively stochastic while the co-effects of predators caused consistent trends (DGGE always showed the most similar patterns when compared with those of in situ environments) and substantially increased the apparent richness. Overall, we found strong evidence that viral lysis and protist bacterivory act additively to reduce bacterial production and to sustain diversity. This first systematic attempt to study the interactive effects of viruses and flagellates on the diversity and production of bacterial communities in coastal waters suggests that a tight control of bacterioplankton dominants results in relatively stable bacterioplankton communities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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