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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 64:201-209 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/dao064201

Characterisation of surface blebbing and membrane vesicles produced by Flavobacterium psychrophilum

Jeannette D. Møller1,*, Andrew C. Barnes2,**, Inger Dalsgaard1, Anthony E. Ellis2

1Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, Fish Disease Laboratory, Stigbøjlen 4, 1870 Frederiksberg, Denmark
2Fisheries Research Services, The Marine Laboratory, Victoria Road, Aberdeen AB11 9DB, UK
**Present address: Centre for Marine Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia

ABSTRACT: The surface of Flavobacterium psychrophilum was examined by electron microscopy to determine if previous findings of haemagglutination positive (HA+) and haemagglutination negative (HA–) abilities could be correlated with expression of pili or of a capsular layer. A thin capsular layer was observed in both HA+ and HA– strains but typical pili were absent. However, long, tubular blebs that released membrane vesicles (MVs) into the supernatant were observed on up to 94% of cells within 1 sample. The surface blebbing was increased for 1 strain following growth on media with restricted iron availability. The MVs had an intact membrane bilayer and were released from blebbing cells of both strains. The protein profiles of MVs, while containing some banding similarity with the profile of outer membrane preparations (OMPs) and of lysed whole cells (WCs), showed several bands that reacted strongly with rabbit anti-whole-cell antisera. Two distinct bands of approximately 62 and 58 kDA were highly expressed in the MVs and not seen in the OMP. MVs contained proteolytic activity towards gelatine but not towards casein and elastin, which were only degraded by live cells. Low molecular weight lipopolysaccharides (LPS) or lipooligosaccharides (LOS) were associated with the MVs. Only the MVs of the HA+ strain possessed haemagglutinin activity. These findings suggest that the F. psychrophilum may, through surface blebbing, release antigenic MVs that contain some proteolytic activity and may aid the bacterium in releasing nutrients from its surrounding environment as well as playing a role in impeding the immune response of its host.

KEY WORDS: Flavobacterium psychrophilum · Membrane vesicles · Surface blebbing · Electron microscopy

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