Archives of Microbiology

, Volume 157, Issue 1, pp 29–37 | Cite as

Gas vesicle formation and buoyancy regulation in Pelodictyon phaeoclathratiforme (Green sulfur bacteria)

  • Jörg Overmann
  • Susanne Lehmann
  • Norbert Pfennig
Original Papers


Gas vesicle formation and buoyancy regulation in Pelodictyon phaeoclathratiforme strain BU1 (Green sulfur bacteria) was investigated under various laboratory conditions. Cells formed gas vesicles exclusively at light intensities below 5 μmol · m-2 · s-1 in the stationary phase. No effect of incubation temperature or nutrient limitation was observed. Gas space of gas vesicles occupied always less than 1.2% of the total cell volume. A maximum cell turgor pressure of 330 kPa was determined which is comparable to values determined for cyanobacterial species. Since a pressure of at least 485 kPa was required to collapse the weakest gas vesicles in Pelodictyon phaeoclathratiforme, short-term regulation of cell density by the turgor pressure mechanism can be excluded.

Instead, regulation of the cell density is accomplished by the cease of gas vacuole production and accumulation of carbohydrate at high light intensity. The carbohydrate content of exponentially growing cells increased with light intensity, reaching a maximum of 35% of dry cell mass above 10 μmol · m-2 · s-1. Density of the cells increased concomitantly. At maximum density, protein and carbohydrate together accounted for 62% of the total cell ballast. Cells harvested in the stationary phase had a significantly lower carbohydrate content (8–12% of the dry cell mass) and cell density (1010–1014 kg · m-3 with gas vesicles collapsed) which in this case was independent of light intensity. Due to the presence of gas vesicles in these cultures, the density of cells reached a minimum value of 998.5 kg · m-3 at 0.5 μmol · m-2 · s-1.

The cell volume during the stationary phase was three times higher than during exponential growth, leading to considerable changes in the buoyancy of Pelodictyon phaeoclathratiforme. Microscopic observations indicate that extracellular slime layers may contribute to these variations of cell volume.

Key words

Green sulfur bacteria Photosynthetic bacteria Pelodictyon Buoyancy Gas vesicles Turgor pressure Cell ballast Capsule Slime capsule 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jörg Overmann
    • 1
  • Susanne Lehmann
    • 1
  • Norbert Pfennig
    • 1
  1. 1.Fakultät für BiologieUniversität KonstanzKonstanzFederal Republic of Germany

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