Nicolaisen MH, Worm J, Jørgensen NOG, Middelboe M, Nybroe O
FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 80 (1) 168-178 [2012-04-00; online 2012-01-10]
Proteins may be an important carbon and nitrogen source to bacteria in aquatic habitats, yet knowledge on the actual utilization of this substrate by proteolytic bacteria is scarce. In this study, Pseudomonas fluorescens ON2 produced an alkaline proteinase (AprX) during growth, and there was no evidence for cell density-regulated or starvation-induced proteinase production. Proteinase was produced in the absence of an organic nitrogen source, and citrate had a negative while glucose had a positive effect on the production. Hence, P. fluorescens ON2 seems to exploit protein sources by expressing the proteinase during growth unless a preferred carbon source such as citrate is present. Lake water model systems were subsequently used to investigate the ability of proteolytic vs. nonproteolytic ON2 strains to utilize protein for growth at moderate cell densities. Only cells forming surface-attached microcolonies were able to utilize this resource, while planktonic cells were not. Our experiments are the first to experimentally support models predicting that production of extracellular enzymes in dilute environments may be a waste of resources, whereas it represents a favorable feeding strategy in organic matrices such as detritus, microcolonies, or biofilm.