Cell density dependent signalling interactions between terrestrial heterotrophs and the ammonia-oxidising bacterium Nitrosomonas europaea
This study provided evidence of cell-density dependent signalling interactions between the autotrophic ammonia-oxidising bacterium Nitrosomonas europaea and a variety of terrestrial heterotrophic bacteria. The autoinducer signal molecule N-(3-hexanoyl)-L-homoserine lactone (HHL) extended the lag phase of N. europaea recovering from starvation while N-(3-oxooctanoyl)-L-homoserine lactone (OOHL) reduced the lag phase. However, the autoinducers N-(3-oxohexanoyl)-L-homoserine lactone N-(3-oxohexanoyl)-L-homoserine lactone (OHHL), N-(3-oxobutanoyl)-L-homoserine lactone(OBHL) and N-(3-oxododecanoyl)-L-homoserine lactone (OdDHL) did not exert an effect. Spent cell-free medium from early stationary phase cultures of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, Pseudomonas fluorescens and Micrococcus luteus reduced the lag phase of N. europaea recovering from starvation. Supplementing solid medium with spent cell-free medium from the heterotrophs A. tumefaciens, P. fluorescens and M. luteus reduced the incubation period required for the development of colonies of the ammonia-oxidiser. For example, the presence of spent cell-free medium from A. tumefaciens reduced the required incubation period from 20 weeks to 2 weeks. Spent cell-free medium from the heterotrophs Comomonas testosteroni, Erwinia carotovora and Rhizobium leguminosarum had no effect on the growth of N. europaea. A. tumefaciens produces the N-acyl autoinducer OOHL which reduces the lag phase of N. europaea. A mutant unable to produce this autoinducer was generated and spent cell-free medium from this organism had no effect on the recovery of N. europaea from starvation or the incubation period required for the development of colonies of N. europaea on solid medium. Enrichment cultures of ammonia-oxidising bacteria were established from soil and the heterotrophs present in the final stages of enrichment were isolated and identified. Spent cell-free medium from these organisms also reduced the lag phase of N. europaea recovering from starvation and reduced the incubation period required for the development of colonies of N. europaea on solid medium.