Ecology and physics of bacterial chemotaxis in the ocean

Publisher:
American Society for Microbiology
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews, 2012, 76 (4), pp. 792 - 812
Issue Date:
2012-01
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Summary: Intuitively, it may seem that from the perspective of an individual bacterium the ocean is a vast, dilute, and largely homogeneous environment. Microbial oceanographers have typically considered the ocean from this point of view. In reality, marine bacteria inhabit a chemical seascape that is highly heterogeneous down to the microscale, owing to ubiquitous nutrient patches, plumes, and gradients. Exudation and excretion of dissolved matter by larger organisms, lysis events, particles, animal surfaces, and fluxes from the sediment-water interface all contribute to create strong and pervasive heterogeneity, where chemotaxis may provide a significant fitness advantage to bacteria. The dynamic nature of the ocean imposes strong selective pressures on bacterial foraging strategies, and many marine bacteria indeed display adaptations that characterize their chemotactic motility as high performance compared to that of enteric model organisms. Fast swimming speeds, strongly directional responses, and effective turning and steering strategies ensure that marine bacteria can successfully use chemotaxis to very rapidly respond to chemical gradients in the ocean.
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