Chemotaxis of Silicibacter sp. strain TM1040 toward dinoflagellate products

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 Aug;70(8):4692-701. doi: 10.1128/AEM.70.8.4692-4701.2004.


The alpha-proteobacteria phylogenetically related to the Roseobacter clade are predominantly responsible for the degradation of organosulfur compounds, including the algal osmolyte dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP). Silicibacter sp. strain TM1040, isolated from a DMSP-producing Pfiesteria piscicida dinoflagellate culture, degrades DMSP, producing 3-methylmercaptopropionate. TM1040 possesses three lophotrichous flagella and is highly motile, leading to a hypothesis that TM1040 interacts with P. piscicida through a chemotactic response to compounds produced by its dinoflagellate host. A combination of a rapid chemotaxis screening assay and a quantitative capillary assay were used to measure chemotaxis of TM1040. These bacteria are highly attracted to dinoflagellate homogenates; however, the response decreases when homogenates are preheated to 80 degrees C. To help identify the essential attractant molecules within the homogenates, a series of pure compounds were tested for their ability to serve as attractants. The results show that TM1040 is strongly attracted to amino acids and DMSP metabolites, while being only mildly responsive to sugars and the tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates. Adding pure DMSP, methionine, or valine to the chemotaxis buffer resulted in a decreased response to the homogenates, indicating that exogenous addition of these chemicals blocks chemotaxis and suggesting that DMSP and amino acids are essential attractant molecules in the dinoflagellate homogenates. The implication of Silicibacter sp. strain TM1040 chemotaxis in establishing and maintaining its interaction with P. piscicida is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Chemotaxis / physiology*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Culture Media
  • Flagella / physiology
  • Pfiesteria piscicida / metabolism*
  • Rhodobacteraceae / physiology*
  • Sulfonium Compounds / metabolism


  • Amino Acids
  • Culture Media
  • Sulfonium Compounds
  • dimethylpropiothetin