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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1998 Sep;64(9):3464-72.

Genetic diversity of the biofilm covering Montacuta ferruginosa (Mollusca, bivalvia) as evaluated by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analysis and cloning of PCR-amplified gene fragments coding for 16S rRNA.

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Laboratoire de Biologie Marine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.


The shell of the bivalve Montacuta ferruginosa, a symbiont living in the burrow of an echinoid, is covered with a rust-colored biofilm. This biofilm includes different morphotypes of bacteria that are encrusted with a mineral rich in ferric ion and phosphate. The aim of this research was to determine the genetic diversity and phylogenetic affiliation of the biofilm bacteria. Also, the possible roles of the microorganisms in the processes of mineral deposition within the biofilm, as well as their impact on the biology of the bivalve, were assessed by phenotypic inference. The genetic diversity was determined by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis of short (193-bp) 16S ribosomal DNA PCR products obtained with primers specific for the domain Bacteria. This analysis revealed a diverse consortium; 11 to 25 sequence types were detected depending on the method of DNA extraction used. Individual biofilms analyzed by using the same DNA extraction protocol did not produce identical DGGE profiles. However, different biofilms shared common bands, suggesting that similar bacteria can be found in different biofilms. The phylogenetic affiliations of the sequence types were determined by cloning and sequencing the 16S rRNA genes. Close relatives of the genera Pseudoalteromonas, Colwellia, and Oceanospirillum (members of the gamma-Proteobacteria lineage), as well as Flexibacter maritimus (a member of the Cytophaga-Flavobacter-Bacteroides lineage), were found in the biofilms. We inferred from the results that some of the biofilm bacteria could play a role in the mineral formation processes.

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