Faculté des sciences

Gains of Bacterial Flagellar Motility in a Fungal World

Pion, Martin ; Bshary, Redouan ; Bindschedler, Saskia ; Filippidou, Sevasti ; Wick, Lukas Y ; Job, Daniel ; Junier, Pilar

In: Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2013, vol. 79, no. 22, p. 6862-6867

The maintenance of energetically costly flagella by bacteria in non-water-saturated media, such as soil, still presents an evolutionary conundrum. Potential explanations have focused on rare flooding events allowing dispersal. Such scenarios, however, overlook bacterial dispersal along mycelia as a possible transport mechanism in soils. The hypothesis tested in this study is that dispersal along... More

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    Summary
    The maintenance of energetically costly flagella by bacteria in non-water-saturated media, such as soil, still presents an evolutionary conundrum. Potential explanations have focused on rare flooding events allowing dispersal. Such scenarios, however, overlook bacterial dispersal along mycelia as a possible transport mechanism in soils. The hypothesis tested in this study is that dispersal along fungal hyphae may lead to an increase in the fitness of flagellated bacteria and thus offer an alternative explanation for the maintenance of flagella even in unsaturated soils. Dispersal along fungal hyphae was shown for a diverse array of motile bacteria. To measure the fitness effect of dispersal, additional experiments were conducted in a model system mimicking limited dispersal, using Pseudomonas putida KT2440 and its nonflagellated (ΔfliM) isogenic mutant in the absence or presence of Morchella crassipes mycelia. In the absence of the fungus, flagellar motility was beneficial solely under conditions of water saturation allowing dispersal, while under conditions limiting dispersal, the nonflagellated mutant exhibited a higher level of fitness than the wild-type strain. In contrast, in the presence of a mycelial network under conditions limiting dispersal, the flagellated strain was able to disperse using the mycelial network and had a higher level of fitness than the mutant. On the basis of these results, we propose that the benefit of mycelium-associated dispersal helps explain the persistence of flagellar motility in non-water-saturated environments.