A Novel Microbial Culture Chamber Co-cultivation System to Study Algal-Bacteria Interactions Using Emiliania huxleyi and Phaeobacter inhibens as Model Organisms

Mariane S. Thøgersen, Jette Melchiorsen, Colin Ingham, Lone Gram*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Our understanding of microbial natural environments combines in situ experimentation with studies of specific interactions in laboratory-based setups. The purpose of this work was to develop, build and demonstrate the use of a microbial culture chamber enabling both in situ and laboratory-based studies. The design uses an enclosed chamber surrounded by two porous membranes that enables the comparison of growth of two separate microbial populations but allowing free exchange of small molecules. Initially, we tested if the presence of the macroalga Fucus vesicuiosus inside the chamber affected colonization of the outer membranes by marine bacteria. The alga did indeed enrich the total population of colonizing bacteria by more than a factor of four. These findings lead us to investigate the effect of the presence of the coccolithophoric alga Emiliania huxleyi on attachment and biofilm formation of the marine bacterium Phaeobacter mhibens DSM17395. These organisms co-exist in the marine environment and have a well-characterized interdependence on secondary metabolites. P. inhibens attached in significantly higher numbers when having access to E. huxleyi as compared to when exposed to sterile media. The experiment was carried out using a wild type (wt) strain as well as a TDA-deficient strain of P. inhibens. The ability of the bacterium to produce the antibacterial compound, tropodithietic acid (TDA) influenced its attachment since the P. mhibens DSM 17395 wt strain attached in higher numbers to a surface within the first 48 h of incubation with E. huxleyi as compared to a TDA-negative mutant. Whilst the attachment of the bacterium to a surface was facilitated by presence of the alga, however, we cannot conclude if this was directly affected by the algae or whether biofilm formation was dependent on the production of TDA by P. inhibens, which has been implied by previous studies. In the light of these results, other applications of immersed cufture chambers are suggested.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1705
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Co-culture
  • Emiliania huxleyi
  • Phaeobacter inhibens
  • Microbial culture chamber
  • Biofilm
  • qPCR

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