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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Feb 17;95(4):1818-22.

Host-derived amino acids support the proliferation of symbiotic bacteria.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA.


Animals are typically colonized by diverse bacterial symbionts, many of which are commensal and, in numerous cases, even essential for their host's proper development and growth. In exchange, the host must supply a sufficient array and quantity of nutrients to support the proliferation and persistence of its microbial community. In this investigation, we have examined such a nutritional environment by determining the symbiotic competence of auxotrophic mutants of the bioluminescent bacterium Vibrio fischeri, and have demonstrated that the host squid Euprymna scolopes provides at least 9 aa to the growing culture of symbiotic V. fischeri present in its light-emitting organ. We also collected and analyzed the extracellular fluid from this organ, in which the symbionts reside, and confirmed that it contained significant amounts of amino acids. The combined results suggested that host-derived free amino acids, as well as peptides or proteins, are a source of the amino acids that support the growth of the symbionts. This work describes a technique to sample the symbionts and their surrounding environment without contamination by host tissue components and, in combination with molecular genetic studies, allows the characterization of the nutritional conditions that support a cooperative animal-bacterial symbiosis.

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