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Overmann, Jörg and Pfennig, Norbert (1992): Buoyancy regulation and aggregate formation in Amoebobacter purpureus from Mahoney lake. In: FEMS Microbiology Ecology, Vol. 10, No. 2: pp. 67-79 [PDF, 542kB]


Abstract The meromictic Mahoney Lake (British Columbia, Canada) contains an extremely dense layer of purple sulfur bacteria (Amoebobacter purpureus). The buoyant density of Amoebobacter cells grown in pure culture at saturating light intensity was significantly higher (1027–1034 kg m−3) than the density of lake water (1015 kg m−3). When stationary cultures were shifted to the dark, the gas-vesicle content increased by a factor of 9 and buoyant density decreased to 1002 kg m−3 within three days.

A novel mechanism of cell aggregation was detected for the Mahoney Lake strain. Dense cell aggregates were formed after depletion of sulfide. Formation of aggregates was correlated with an increase in cell surface hydrophobicity. Cell aggregates could be disintegrated within less than 1 s by addition of sulfide or various thiol compounds. Mercaptanes with a branched structure in the vicinity of the terminal thiol group, compounds with esterified thiol groups (methylmercaptanes), reducing compounds lacking thiol groups and detergents did not influence aggregate stability. Cell aggregates disintegrated upon addition of urea or of proteinase K. Addition of various sugars had no effect on aggregation; this points to the absence of lectins. The results indicate that cell-to-cell adhesion in A, purpureus ML1 is mainly caused by a hydrophobic effect and includes a specific mechanism possibly mediated by a surface protein.

Extrapolation of laboratory results to field conditions demonstrated that both regulation of buoyant density and formation of cell aggregates result in passive accumulation of cells at the chemocline and contribute to the narrow stratification of A. purpureus in Mahoney Lake.

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