Rapid chemotactic response enables marine bacteria to exploit ephemeral microscale nutrient patches.

Publisher:
National Academy of Sciences
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2008, 105 (11), pp. 4209 - 4214
Issue Date:
2008-01
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Because ocean water is typically resource-poor, bacteria may gain significant growth advantages if they can exploit the ephemeral nutrient patches originating from numerous, small sources. Although this interaction has been proposed to enhance biogeochemical transformation rates in the ocean, it remains questionable whether bacteria are able to efficiently use patches before physical mechanisms dissipate them. Here we show that the rapid chemotactic response of the marine bacterium Pseudoalteromonas haloplanktis substantially enhances its ability to exploit nutrient patches before they dissipate. We investigated two types of patches important in the ocean: nutrient pulses and nutrient plumes, generated for example from lysed algae and sinking organic particles, respectively. We used microfluidic devices to create patches with environmentally realistic dimensions and dynamics. The accumulation of P. haloplanktis in response to a nutrient pulse led to formation of bacterial hot spots within tens of seconds, resulting in a 10-fold higher nutrient exposure for the fastest 20% of the population compared with nonmotile cells.
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