The Roseobacter group is one of the predominant lineages in the marine environment. While most investigations focus on pelagic roseobacters, the distribution and metabolic potential of benthic representatives is less understood. In this study, the diversity of the Roseobacter group was characterized in sediment and water samples along the German/Scandinavian North Sea coast by 16S rRNA gene analysis and cultivation-based methods. Molecular analysis indicated an increasing diversity between communities of the Roseobacter group from the sea surface to the seafloor and revealed distinct compositions of free-living and attached fractions. Culture media containing dimethyl sulfide (DMS), dimethyl sulfonium propionate (DMSP) or dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) stimulated growth of roseobacters showing highest most probable numbers (MPN) in DMSO-containing dilutions of surface sediments (2.1 × 10(7) roseobacters cm(-3)). Twenty roseobacters (12 from sediments) were isolated from DMSP- and DMS-containing cultures. Sequences of the isolates represented 0.04% of all Bacteria and 4.7% of all roseobacters in the pyrosequencing dataset from sediments. Growth experiments with the isolate Shimia sp. SK013 indicated that benthic roseobacters are able to switch between aerobic and anaerobic utilization of organic sulfur compounds. This response to changing redox conditions might be an adaptation to specific environmental conditions on particles and in sediments.
Keywords: DGGE; MPN; Shimia sp; enrichment cultures; organic sulfur compounds; pyrosequencing.
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