Mutualistic interactions between vitamin B12-dependent algae and heterotrophic bacteria exhibit regulation

Elena Kazamia, Hjördis Czesnick, Thi Thanh Van Nguyen, Martin Tom Croft, Emma Sherwood, Severin Sasso, Sarah James Hodson, Martin James Warren, Alison Gail Smith

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252 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Many algae are auxotrophs for vitamin B12 (cobalamin), which they need as a cofactor for B12-dependent methionine synthase (METH). Because only prokaryotes can synthesize the cobalamin, they must be the ultimate source of the vitamin. In the laboratory, a direct interaction between algae and heterotrophic bacteria has been shown, with bacteria supplying cobalamin in exchange for fixed carbon. Here we establish a system to study this interaction at the molecular level. In a culture of a B12-dependent green alga Chlamydomonas nivalis, we found a contaminating bacterium, identified by 16S rRNA analysis as Mesorhizobium sp. Using the sequenced strain of M.loti (MAFF303099), we found that it was able to support the growth of B12-dependent Lobomonas rostrata, another green alga, in return for fixed carbon. The two organisms form a stable equilibrium in terms of population numbers, which is maintained over many generations in semi-continuous culture, indicating a degree of regulation. However, addition of either vitamin B12 or a carbon source for the bacteria perturbs the equilibrium, demonstrating that the symbiosis is mutualistic and facultative. Chlamydomonas reinhardtii does not require B12 for growth because it encodes a B12-independent methionine synthase, METE, the gene for which is suppressed by addition of exogenous B12. Co-culturing C.reinhardtii with M.loti also results in reduction of METE expression, demonstrating that the bacterium can deliver the vitamin to this B12-independent alga. We discuss the implications of this for the widespread distribution of cobalamin auxotrophy in the algal kingdom.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1466-1476
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Volume14
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

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