Elevated lytic phage production as a consequence of particle colonization by a marine Flavobacterium (Cellulophaga sp.)

Microb Ecol. 2008 Oct;56(3):505-12. doi: 10.1007/s00248-008-9369-8. Epub 2008 Mar 18.


Bacteria growing on marine particles generally have higher densities and cell-specific activities than free-living bacteria. Since rapidity of phage adsorption is dependent on host density, while infection productivity is a function of host physiological status, we hypothesized that marine particles are sites of elevated phage production. In the present study, organic-matter-rich agarose beads and a marine phage-host pair (Cellulophaga sp., PhiS(M)) were used as a model system to examine whether bacterial colonization of particles increases phage production. While no production of phages was observed in plain seawater, the presence of beads enhanced attachment and growth of bacteria, as well as phage production. This was observed because of extensive lysis of bacteria in the presence of beads and a subsequent increase in phage abundance both on beads and in the surrounding water. After 12 h, extensive phage lysis reduced the density of attached bacteria; however, after 32 h, bacterial abundance increased again. Reexposure to phages and analyses of bacterial isolates suggested that this regrowth on particles was by phage-resistant clones. The present demonstration of elevated lytic phage production associated with model particles illustrates not only that a marine phage has the ability to successfully infect and lyse surface-attached bacteria but also that acquisition of resistance may affect temporal phage-host dynamics on particles. These findings from a model system may have relevance to the distribution of phage production in environments rich in particulate matter (e.g., in coastal areas or during phytoplankton blooms) where a significant part of phage production may be directly linked to these nutrient-rich "hot spots."

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophages / growth & development*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Ecosystem*
  • Flavobacterium / virology*
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology*
  • Water Microbiology*