The complex life-cycle of a polymorphic prokaryote epibiont of the photosynthetic bacterium Chromatium weissei
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In natural populations of the anaerobic phototrophic bacterium Chromatium weissei, many cells support a prokaryotic epibiont. This epibiont appears in several forms, all from the life cycle of a single species. A typical epibiont consists of one to five flattened coccoid cells stacked one above the other, perpendicular to the C. weissei surface. The cells at the proximal and distal ends of the stack are 0.6 μm in diameter and 0.8 μm in length; mid-stack cells are slightly shorter. A typical three or four cell stack is 2 μm in length. Small mesosome-like inclusions in the distal cell are involved in the development of ‘droplet’ shaped cells which are released from the end of each stack. These specialised ‘droplet’ cells probably transfer to new hosts when C. weissei cells collide, thereafter developing into new epibiont stacks. It is likely that the epibiont grows heterotrophically using the substantial production of dissolved organic carbon within the dense plates of photosynthesising C. weissei which develop naturally. Thus the epibiont uses its unusual method of growth and dispersion to maintain position in the microbial plate upon which it depends.
Key wordsChromatium weissei Prokaryote epibiont Life cycle Dissolved organic carbon Microbial plate Anaerobic aquatic bacteria Meromictic lakes Bacterial interactions
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