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Effects of Bacillus cereus Endospores on Free-Living Protist Growth

Santos, Susana S., Hendriksen, Niels Bohse, Jakobsen, Hans Henrik, Winding, Anne
Microbial ecology 2017 v.73 no.3 pp. 699-709
Bacillus cereus, antibiotics, bacteria, breeding sites, cell division, digestion, endospores, fluorescence microscopy, predation, predator-prey relationships, protists, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, spore germination, vacuoles, vegetative cells
We studied the predator–prey interactions between heterotrophic protists and endospores of Bacillus cereus group bacteria, in order to gain insight on survival and dispersal of B. cereus endospores in the environment. It has been hypothesised that the spore stage protects against digestion by predating protists. Therefore, experiments were carried out to investigate the impact of B. cereus endospores and vegetative cells, as the only food source, on individual amoeboid, flagellated and ciliated protists. The presence of fluorescent-labelled intracellular bacteria confirmed that B. cereus endospores as well as vegetative cells were ingested by protists and appeared intact in the food vacuoles when observed by epifluorescence microscopy. Furthermore, protist growth and bacterial predation were followed by qPCR. Protists were able to grow on vegetative cells as well as endospores of B. cereus, despite the lower cell division rates observed for some protists when feeding on bacterial endospores. Survival and proliferation of ingested bacteria inside protists cells was also observed. Finally, B. cereus spore germination and growth was observed within all protists with higher abundance in the amoeboid protist after antibiotic treatment of the protist surface. These observations support that protists can act as a potential breeding ground for B. cereus endospores.