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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 80:15-27 (2017)  -  DOI:

Isolates as models to study bacterial ecophysiology and biogeochemistry

Åke Hagström1,*, Farooq Azam2, Carlo Berg1, Ulla Li Zweifel3

1Department of Biology and Environmental Science, Linnaeus University, 391 82 Kalmar, Sweden
2Marine Biology Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0202, USA
3Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment, Gothenburg University, Box 260, 405 30 Göteborg, Sweden
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Here, we examine the use of bacterial isolates growing in artificial media or seawater as a means to investigate bacterial activity in the upper ocean. The discovery of a major role of bacteria in the ocean’s carbon cycle owes greatly to the development of culture-independent assemblage-level approaches; however, this should not detract from the recognition of model isolates as representing the environmental microbiome. A long-established tool for culturing bacteria, in medicine and general microbiology, has been agar plates. In addition, a great variety of liquid substrates including seawater have been used to successfully identify and cultivate important bacteria such as Pelagibacter ubique. Yet, the discrepancy between microscopic counts and plate counts, the great plate count anomaly, has led to a biased perception of the limited relevance of isolated bacteria. Linking isolates to whole-genome sequencing, phylogenetic analysis and computational modeling will result in culturable model bacteria from different habitats. Our main message is that bacterial ecophysiology, particularly growth rates in seawater, and functionalities inferred through the identity, abundance and expression of specific genes could be mechanistically linked if more work is done to isolate, culture and study bacteria in pure cultures. When we rally behind a strategy aimed at culturing targeted phenotypes, we are not saying that culture-independent studies of bacteria in the sea are not informative. We are suggesting that culture-based studies can help integrate the ecological and genomic views.

KEY WORDS: Bacteria · Culture · Physiology

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Cite this article as: Hagström Å, Azam F, Berg C, Zweifel UL (2017) Isolates as models to study bacterial ecophysiology and biogeochemistry. Aquat Microb Ecol 80:15-27.

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