Reaching out in anticipation: bacterial membrane extensions represent a permanent investment in polysaccharide sensing and utilization

Environ Microbiol. 2021 Apr 19. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.15537. Online ahead of print.


Outer membrane extensions are common in many marine bacteria. However, the function of these surface enlargements or extracellular compartments is poorly understood. Using a combined approach of microscopy and subproteome analyses, we therefore examined Pseudoalteromonas distincta ANT/505, an Antarctic polysaccharide degrading gamma-proteobacterium. P. distincta produced outer membrane vesicles (MV) and vesicle chains (VC) on polysaccharide and non-polysaccharide carbon sources during the exponential and stationary growth phase. Surface structures of carbohydrate-grown cells were equipped with increased levels of highly substrate-specific proteins. At the same time, proteins encoded in all other polysaccharide degradation-related genomic regions were also detected in MV and VC samples under all growth conditions, indicating a basal expression. In addition, two alkaline phosphatases were highly abundant under non-limiting phosphate conditions. Surface structures may thus allow rapid sensing and fast responses in nutritionally deprived environments. It may also facilitate efficient carbohydrate processing and reduce loss of substrates and enzymes by diffusion as important adaptions to the aquatic ecosystem.