Bacterial survival in a dilute environment
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Bacteria were isolated from lake water, and their ability to remain viable in a dilute, nutrient-deficient environment was tested by a method that permits suspension of test bacteria between two appressed microporous membranes in an aqueous environment. This approach permitted separation of the lake isolates into two categories. Members of the tribe Klebsielleae were shown to have a prolonged survival rate of 40% or better after 24 h, whereas nonsurvivors were not viable for much longer than 24
... h. These nonsurvivors belonged to the genera Acinetobacter, Aeromonas, Alcaligenes, Erwinia, Escherichia, Flavobacterium, and Pseudomonas. Differences in ribonuclease and adenosine triphosphatase levels between Escherichia coli (nonsurvivor) and Klebsiella (survivor) cells were detected. At pH 7.5, stressed E. coli cells contained 14% of the adenosine triphosphatase activity detected in the control, whereas at pH 5.5, in the presence of calcium ions, these same cells contained 50% of the control adenosine triphosphatase levels. At pH 7.2, E. coli cells were strongly inhibited by an adenosine triphosphatase inhibitor, bathophenanthroline (88%); oligomycin (64%); and the proton ionophore carbonyl cyanide-m-chlorophenyl hydrazone (67%). Both sodium azide and valinomycin were only moderately inhibitory (15 and 28%, respectively). Although the ability to scavenge internal endogenous reserves seems important, we postulate that certain enteric bacteria are capable of utilizing acidic conditions (pH 5.5) as an electrochemical gradient to generate necessary high-energy intermediates for prolongation of survival beyond that possible in environments of near-neutral pH. To properly assess the bias and range of limitation of sanitary water quality data, we must know about cellular events that enable enteric bacteria to survive during the time they are present in an aquatic environment. To do this requires knowledge of the basic mechanisms bacteria possess that enable them to adapt to dilute environments. It is obvious that one can routinely isolate enteric bacteria and other bacteria belonging to various genera from natural waters. What is not obvious is how allochthonous and autochthonous bacteria are able to persist in a dilute environment.