Archives of Microbiology

, Volume 121, Issue 3, pp 241-249

First online:

Competition between the facultatively chemolithotrophic Thiobacillus A2, an obligately chemolithotrophic Thiobacillus and a heterotrophic spirillum for inorganic and organic substrates

  • Jan C. GottschalAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, Biological Centre
  • , Sacco de VriesAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, Biological Centre
  • , J. Gijs KuenenAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, Biological Centre

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Competition in a chemostat between the versatile Thiobacillus A2 and the specialized T. neapolitanus for thiosulfate as the sole growth-limiting substrate, led to dominance of the specialized over the versatile organism, at dilution rates ≥0.025 h-1. Increasing concentrations of acetate or glycollate in the thiosulfate medium caused increased relative numbers of T. A2 in steady states at D=0.07 h-1. Eventually, with 10–12 mmol of organic substrate per litre, complete dominance of T. A2 over T. neapolitanus occurred.

Mixed cultures of T. A2 and a specialized spirillumshaped heterotroph, competing for acetate as sole growth-limiting substrate resulted in complete dominance of the heterotroph at dilution rates of 0.07 and 0.15 h-1. In this case increasing concentrations of thiosulfate in the acetate medium, up to 10 mM, eventually led to the elimination of the heterotroph.

These results have been interpreted as evidence that T. A2 was growing mixotrophically. As the concentration of the second substrate was raised, the number of T. A2 cells increased and as a result T. A2 consumed an increasing portion of the common substrate.

In mixed chemostat cultures containing all three organisms, T. A2 could maintain itself with all tested ratios of acetate and thiosulfate in the inflowing medium. The heterotroph was excluded from the culture below a relatively low acetate to thiosulfate ratio, whilst above a relatively high acetate to thiosulfate ratio T. neapolitanus was completely eliminated.

These results were discussed in relation to the ecological niche of Thiobacillus A2-type organisms.

Key words

Thiobacillus A2 Mixotrophy Competition Mixed cultures Facultative chemolithotroph Ecological niche