Protozoan Grazing Increases Mineralization of Naphthalene in Marine Sediment
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- Tso, SF. & Taghon, G.L. Microb Ecol (2006) 51: 460. doi:10.1007/s00248-006-9058-4
Bacterial decomposition of organic matter is frequently enhanced when protozoa are present. Various mechanisms have been proposed to account for this phenomenon, including effects associated with grazing by protozoa (such as increased recycling of limiting nutrients, removal of senescent cells, or reduction of competition among bacteria) and indirect effects of grazers (such as excretion of bacterial growth factors). Few studies have examined the role of protozoa in bacterial degradation of xenobiotic compounds in sediment containing a natural community of microbes. The effect of protozoa on mineralization of naphthalene was investigated in this study. Laboratory experiments were conducted using field-contaminated estuarine sediment, with the indigenous microbial populations. Mineralization of naphthalene was up to four times greater in treatments with actively grazing protozoa than in treatments containing the grazing inhibitor cytochalasin B. Control experiments confirmed that the grazing inhibitor was not toxic to ciliates but did prevent them from grazing. The grazing inhibitor did not affect growth rates of a mixed culture of sediment bacteria or a pure polycyclic-aromatic-hydrocarbon-degrading strain. Once grazing had been inhibited, supplementing treatments with inorganic N and P, glucose, or additional protozoa failed to stimulate naphthalene mineralization. Naphthalene-degrading bacteria were four to nine times less abundant when protozoan grazing was suppressed. We suggest that protozoa enhance naphthalene mineralization by selectively grazing on those sediment bacteria that ordinarily would outcompete naphthalene-degrading bacteria.