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Zoolog Sci. 2000 Apr 1;17(3):341-8. doi: 10.2108/jsz.17.341.

Ectosymbiotic role of food bacteria for paramecium: bacterial detoxification of paramecia-killing toxin contained in wheat grass powder.


Bacterized plant infusion is a popular culture medium for Paramecium, using Klebsiella pneumoniae for the bacterium and Wheat Grass Powder (WGP) for the plant. It has been thought that WGP plays a role in the growth of bacteria, which in turn serve as the direct food for paramecia. However, we found that bacteria suspended in saline solution were unable to support the growth of paramecia. WGP including no bacteria was able to support neither the growth nor the survival of paramecia; instead, it killed paramecia. The killing effect of the WGP-derived substance(s), estimated to be of molecular weight less than 1,000, was abolished when bacteria were once grown in the WGP and then eliminated, suggesting that bacteria might change the toxic substance into an inactive form. This inactivation of the toxic substance may be caused either by metabolization inside of the bacteria or by neutralization by means of bacteria-derived substance outside of the bacteria. The second alternative is likely, because paramecia were able to survive and grow in the WGP medium containing a sufficient amount of dead bacteria killed by formalin or kanamycin. Dead bacteria killed by autoclaving were ineffective, probably because bacterial contents were lost. These findings revealed an ectosymbiotic role of bacteria; they confer benefits upon paramecia not only as food but also as machinery to detoxicate a plant toxin.


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