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Environ Microbiol. 2007 Dec;9(12):3108-21.

Microbial community diversity in the phycosphere of natural populations of the toxic alga, Alexandrium fundyense.

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University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Lowell, MA 01854, USA.


The dinoflagellate Alexandrium fundyense is the major causative organism of paralytic shellfish poisoning in the Gulf of Maine. While laboratory studies have shown that A. fundyense population dynamics can be affected dramatically by co-occurring bacteria, little is known about these interactions in nature. Because A. fundyense is typically a minor Gulf of Maine phytoplankton community member, analyses of the bulk community cannot be used to address bacterium-A. fundyense associations. Therefore, an immunomagnetic bead method was used to selectively capture A. fundyense cells, and the bacteria attached to them, from complex natural samples. Bulk particle-associated and free-living bacterial communities were collected simultaneously. DNA was extracted from all sample types and subjected to 16S rRNA gene fragment amplification, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and sequence analysis. Ordination analysis of DGGE profiles confirmed that A. fundyense-associated bacteria community profiles were distinct from bulk bacterial community profiles, indicating selection of specific phylotypes in the A. fundyense phycosphere. Phylogenetic analyses confirmed that Alexandrium-associates were distinct from bulk particle-associated bacteria and that they included a greater prevalence and broader diversity of Gammaproteobacteria than previously thought to be associated with toxic algae. Phylogenetic groups known to be associated with dinoflagellates were also found, including members of the families Alteromonadaceae, Pseudoalteromonadaceae, Rhodobacteraceae and Flavobacteraceae.

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