Seitz, A. P.; Nielsen, T. H.; Overmann, Jörg
Physiology of purple sulfur bacteria forming macroscopic aggregates in Great Sippewissett Salt Marsh, Massachusetts.
In: FEMS Microbiology Ecology, Vol. 12: S. 225-236
Abstract Purple bacterial aggregates found in tidal pools of Great Sippewissett Salt Marsh (Falmouth, Cape Cod, MA) were investigated in order to elucidate the ecological significance of cell aggregation. Purple sulfur bacteria were the dominant microorganisms in the aggregates which also contained diatoms and a high number of small rod-shaped bacteria. Urea in concentrations of ≥ 1 M caused disintegration of the aggregates while proteolytic enzymes, surfactants or chaotropic agents did not exhibit this effect. This suggests that polysaccharides in the embedding slime matrix stabilize the aggregate structure. In addition cell surface hydrophobicity is involved in aggregate formation. The concentration of dissolved oxygen decreased rapidly below the surface of aggregates while sulfide was not detected. The apparent respiration rate in the aggregates was high when the purple sulfur bacteria contained intracellular sulfur globules. In the presence of DCMU, respiration remained light-inhibited. Light inhibition disappeared in the presence of KCN. These results demonstrated that respiration in the aggregates is due mainly to purple sulfur bacteria. The concentration of bacteriochlorophyll (Bchl) a in the aggregates (0.205 mg Bchl a cm−3) was much higher than in the pool sediments but comparable to concentrations in microbial mats of adjacent sand flats. Purple aggregates may therefore originate in the microbial mats rather than in the pools themselves. Rapid sedimentation and high respiration rates of Chromatiaceae in the aggregates would prevent the inhibition of Bchl synthesis if aggregates were lifted off the sediment and up into the oxic pool water by tidal currents.