Shedding Light on Microbial Predator–Prey Population Dynamics Using a Quantitative Bioluminescence Assay
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This study assessed the dynamics of predation by Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus HD 100. Predation tests with two different bioluminescent strains of Escherichia coli, one expressing a heat-labile bacterial luciferase and the other a heat-stable form, showed near identical losses from both, indicating that protein expression and stability are not responsible for the “shutting-off” of the prey bioluminescence (BL). Furthermore, it was found that the loss in the prey BL was not proportional with the predator-to-prey ratio (PPR), with significantly greater losses seen as this value was increased. This suggests that other factors also play a role in lowering the prey BL. The loss in BL, however, was very consistent within nine independent experiments to the point that we were able to reliably estimate the predator numbers within only 1 h when present at a PPR of 6 or higher, Using a fluorescent prey, we found that premature lysis of the prey occurs at a significant level and was more prominent as the PPR ratio increased. Based upon the supernatant fluorescent signal, even a relatively low PPR of 10–20 led to approximately 5 % of the prey population being prematurely lysed within 1 h, while a PPR of 90 led to nearly 15 % lysis. Consequently, we developed a modified Lotka–Volterra predator–prey model that accounted for this lysis and is able to reliably estimate the prey and bdelloplast populations for a wide range of PPRs.
KeywordsPrey Population Cyan Fluorescent Protein Prey Concentration Luciferase Protein Prey Cell
This work was supported by the Creativity and Innovation Project as funded by the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) (Grant #1.120051.01) and by the National Research Foundation of Korea through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (Grant 2011–0000886).
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