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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Oct;78(19):6900-7. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01790-12. Epub 2012 Jul 20.

Chemotaxis of Marinobacter adhaerens and its impact on attachment to the diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii.

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Molecular Life Science Research Center, Jacobs University Bremen, Bremen, Germany.


Alga-bacterium interactions are crucial for aggregate formation and carbon cycling in aquatic systems. To understand the initiation of these interactions, we investigated bacterial chemotaxis within a bilateral model system. Marinobacter adhaerens HP15 has been demonstrated to attach to the diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii and induce transparent exopolymeric particle and aggregate formation. M. adhaerens possesses one polar flagellum and is highly motile. Bacterial cells were attracted to diatom cells, as demonstrated by addition of diatom cell homogenate or diatom culture supernatant to soft agar, suggesting that chemotaxis might be important for the interaction of M. adhaerens with diatoms. Three distinct chemotaxis-associated gene clusters were identified in the genome sequence of M. adhaerens, with the clusters showing significant sequence similarities to those of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1. Mutations in the genes cheA, cheB, chpA, and chpB, which encode histidine kinases and methylesterases and which are putatively involved in either flagellum-associated chemotaxis or pilus-mediated twitching motility, were generated and mutants with the mutations were phenotypically analyzed. ΔcheA and ΔcheB mutants were found to be swimming deficient, and all four mutants were impaired in biofilm formation on abiotic surfaces. Comparison of the HP15 wild type and its chemotaxis mutants in cocultures with the diatom revealed that the fraction of bacteria attaching to the diatom decreased significantly for mutants in comparison to that for the wild type. Our results highlight the importance of M. adhaerens chemotaxis in initiation of its interaction with the diatom. In-depth knowledge of these basic processes in interspecies interactions is pivotal to obtain a systematic understanding of organic matter flux and nutrient cycling in marine ecosystems.

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