Microbial Ecology

, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 36–46 | Cite as

Inter-specific Interactions Between Carbon-limited Soil Bacteria Affect Behavior and Gene Expression

  • Paolina GarbevaEmail author
  • Wietse de Boer
Soil Microbiology


Recent publications indicate that inter-specific interactions between soil bacteria may strongly affect the behavior of the strains involved, e.g., by increased production of antibiotics or extracellular enzymes. This may point at an enhanced competitive ability due to inter-specific triggering of gene expression. However, it is not known if such inter-specific interactions also occur during competition for carbon which is the normal situation in soil. Here, we report on competitive interactions between two taxonomically non-related bacterial strains, Pseudomonas sp. A21 and Pedobacter sp. V48, that were isolated from a dune soil. The strains showed strong effects on each other’s behavior and gene expression patterns when growing together under carbon-limited conditions on agar. The most pronounced observed visual changes in mixed cultures as compared to monocultures were (1) strong inhibition of a bioindicator fungus, suggesting the production of a broad-spectrum antibiotic, and (2) the occurrence of gliding-like movement of Pedobacter cells. Two independent techniques, namely random arbitrary primed-PCR (RAP-PCR) and suppressive subtractive hybridization (SSH), identified in total 24 genes that had higher expression in mixed cultures compared to monocultures. Microbial interactions were clearly bidirectional, as differentially expressed genes were detected for both bacteria in mixed cultures. Sequence analysis of the differentially expressed genes indicated that several of them were most related to genes involved in motility and chemotaxis, secondary metabolite production and two-component signal transduction systems. The gene expression patterns suggest an interference competition strategy by the Pseudomonas strain and an escape/explorative strategy by the Pedobacter strain during confrontation with each other. Our results show that the bacterial strains can distinguish between intra- and inter-specific carbon competition.


Pseudomonas Mixed Culture Suppressive Subtractive Hybridization Pedobacter Dune Soil 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work is supported by The Netherlands Organization for Scientific research (NWO). The authors thank Wiecher Smant for ergosterol determination and Adam Ostrowski for his help in Q-PCR analysis. This is publication No. 4440 NIOO-KNAW of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)Center for Terrestrial EcologyHeterenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.HeterenThe Netherlands

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