mBio. 2024-07-03; e0003824.

Marine bacteria Alteromonas spp. require UDP-glucose-4-epimerase for aggregation and production of sticky exopolymer

Robertson JM, Garza EA, Stubbusch AKM, Dupont CL, Hwa T, Held NA

PMID: 38958440


The physiology and ecology of particle-associated marine bacteria are of growing interest, but our knowledge of their aggregation behavior and mechanisms controlling their association with particles remains limited. We have found that a particle-associated isolate, sp. ALT199 strain 4B03, and the related type-strain 27126 both form large (>500 μm) aggregates while growing in rich medium. A non-clumping variant (NCV) of 4B03 spontaneously arose in the lab, and whole-genome sequencing revealed a partial deletion in the gene encoding UDP-glucose-4-epimerase (308-324). In 27126, a knock-out of (::km) resulted in a loss of aggregation, mimicking the NCV. Microscopic analysis shows that both 4B03 and 27126 rapidly form large aggregates, whereas their respective mutants remain primarily as single planktonic cells or clusters of a few cells. Strains 4B03 and 27126 also form aggregates with chitin particles, but their mutants do not. Alcian Blue staining shows that 4B03 and 27126 produce large transparent exopolymer particles (TEP), but their mutants are deficient in this regard. This study demonstrates the capabilities of cell-cell aggregation, aggregation of chitin particles, and production of TEP in strains of , a widespread particle-associated genus of heterotrophic marine bacteria. A genetic requirement for is evident for each of the above capabilities, expanding the known breadth of requirement for this gene in biofilm-related processes.