Gene Transfer in Marine Water Column and Sediment Microcosms by Natural Plasmid Transformation

John H. Paul, Marc E. Frischer, Jennifer M. Thurmond
1991 Applied and Environmental Microbiology  
We investigated the possibility for natural transformation in the marine environment by using broad-hostrange plasmid multimers and a high-frequency-of-transformation (HFT) Vibrio strain as the recipient. Water and sediment samples were taken from Tampa Bay, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Shelf near Miami, and the Bahamas Bank. In water column microcosms, transformation frequencies ranged from 1.7 x 10-6 to 2.7 x 10-10 transformants per recipient, with highest frequencies occurring
more » ... ncies occurring when low levels of nutrients (peptone and yeast extract) were added. The presence of the ambient community either reduced transformation frequency by an order of magnitude or had no effect. In sterile sediments, nutrient additions had no consistent effect on transformation, with transfer frequencies similar to those observed in the water column. Transformation was not observed in any sediment experiment when the ambient microbial community was present. These findings are the first report of natural plasmid transformation in seawater and in the presence of the ambient microbial community. This process may be a mechanism for the acquisition of small, nonconjugative plasmids, which are commonly found in aquatic bacteria. Our data also suggest that natural transformation may be more likely to occur in the water column than in native marine sediments, contradicting prior conclusions based on studies with sterile sediments.
doi:10.1128/aem.57.5.1509-1515.1991 fatcat:dhsselqeh5g3rgvzfviqokqfzy