Phylogenetic Composition, Spatial Structure, and Dynamics of Lotic Bacterial Biofilms Investigated by Fluorescent in Situ Hybridization and Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy

Microb Ecol. 1999 May;37(4):225-237. doi: 10.1007/s002489900148.


> Abstract The phylogenetic composition, three-dimensional structure and dynamics of bacterial communities in river biofilms generated in a rotating annular reactor system were studied by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) and confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). Biofilms grew on independently removable polycarbonate slides exposed in the reactor system with natural river water as inoculum and sole nutrient and carbon source. The microbial biofilm community developed from attached single cells and distinct microcolonies via a more confluent structure characterized by various filamentous bacteria to a mature biofilm rich in polymeric material with fewer cells on a per-area basis after 56 days. During the different stages of biofilm development, characteristic microcolonies and cell morphotypes could be identified as typical features of the investigated lotic biofilms. In situ analysis using a comprehensive suite of rRNA-targeted probes visualized individual cells within the alpha-, beta-, and gamma-Proteobacteria as well as the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium group as major parts of the attached community. The relative abundance of these major groups was determined by using digital image analysis to measure specific cell numbers as well as specific cell area after in situ probing. Within the lotic biofilm community, 87% of the whole bacterial cell area and 79% of the total cell counts hybridized with a Bacteria specific probe. During initial biofilm development, beta-Proteobacteria dominated the bacterial population. This was followed by a rapid increase of alpha-Proteobacteria and bacteria affiliated to the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium group. In mature biofilms, alpha-Proteobacteria and Cytophaga-Flavobacteria continued to be the prevalent bacterial groups. Beta-Proteobacteria constituted the morphologically most diverse group within the biofilm communities, and more narrow phylogenetic staining revealed the importance of distinct phylotypes within the beta1-Proteobacteria for the composition of the microbial community. The presence of sulfate-reducing bacteria affiliated to the Desulfovibrionaceae and Desulfobacteriaceae confirmed the range of metabolic potential within the lotic biofilms.