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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2010 Aug;73(2):234-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2010.00887.x. Epub 2010 Apr 14.

Temperature regulation of gliding motility in filamentous sulfur bacteria, Beggiatoa spp.

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Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany.


The response of gliding motility to changing temperatures was studied in filaments of the large sulfur bacteria Beggiatoa from arctic, temperate and tropical marine environments. The general shape of the gliding speed vs. temperature curves from all three locations was similar, but differed in the maximal gliding speed of the filaments, optimum temperature and the temperature range of motility. The optimum temperature and the overall temperature range of gliding motility accorded to the climatic origin of the filaments with a high temperature range for tropical, an intermediate range for temperate, and a low temperature range for arctic filaments. The temperature-controlled decrease in gliding speed at low temperatures was reversible while the decline in speed at high temperatures was due to irreversible thermal damage in individual filaments. Filaments from the Arctic and cold-acclimatized filaments from the temperate zone were unaffected by transient freezing of the surrounding seawater. At in situ temperatures, filaments glided at 17-55% of the gliding speed at the optimum temperatures, indicating that they were well adapted to the temperature regime of their origin. Our results point towards an enzymatic control of temperature-dependent gliding motility.

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