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Development of a Fatty Acid and RNA Stable Isotope Probing-Based Method for Tracking Protist Grazing on Bacteria in Wastewater

Kuppardt, Steffen, Chatzinotas, Antonis, Kästner, Matthias
Applied and environmental microbiology 2010 v.76 no.24 pp. 8222-8230
Escherichia coli, bacteria, biomass, carbon, cell division, cell growth, die-off, fatty acids, filtration, grazing, ingestion, labeling, polymerase chain reaction, ribosomal RNA, sorption, stable isotopes, viruses, wastewater, wastewater treatment
Removal of potential pathogenic bacteria, for example, during wastewater treatment, is effected by sorption, filtration, natural die-off, lysis by viruses, and grazing by protists, but the actual contribution of grazing has never been assessed quantitatively. A methodical approach for analyzing the grazing of protists on ¹³C-labeled prey bacteria was developed which enables mass balances of the carbon turnover to be drawn, including yield estimation. Model experiments for validating the approach were performed in closed microcosms with the ciliate Uronema sp. and ¹³C-labeled Escherichia coli as model prey. The transfer of bacterial ¹³C into grazing protist biomass was investigated by fatty acid (FA) and RNA stable isotope probing (SIP). Uronema sp. showed ingestion rates of ~390 bacteria protist⁻¹ h⁻¹, and the temporal patterns of ¹³C assimilation from the prey bacteria to the protist FA were identified. Nine fatty acids specific for Uronema sp. were found (20:0, i20:0, 22:0, 24:0, 20:1ω9c, 20:1ω9t, 22:1ω9c, 22:1ω9t, and 24:1). Four of these fatty acids (22:0, 20:1ω9t, 22:1ω9c, and 22:1ω9t) were enriched very rapidly after 3 h, indicating grazing on bacteria without concomitant cell division. Other fatty acids (20:0, i20:0, and 20:1ω9c) were found to be indicative of growth with cell division. The fatty acids were found to be labeled with a percentage of labeled carbon (atoms percent [atom%]) up to 50. Eighteen percent of the E. coli-derived ¹³C was incorporated into Uronema biomass, whereas 11% was mineralized. Around 5 mol bacterial carbon was necessary in order to produce 1 mol protist carbon (yx/s [almost equal to] 0.2), and the temporal pattern of ¹³C labeling of protist rRNA was also shown. A consumption of around 1,000 prey bacteria (~98 atom% ¹³C) per protist cell appears to be sufficient to provide detectable amounts of label in the protist RNA. The large shift in the buoyant density fraction of ¹³C-labeled protist RNA demonstrated a high incorporation of ¹³C, and reverse transcription-real-time PCR (RT-qPCR) confirmed that protist rRNA increasingly dominated in the heavy RNA fraction.