Sensitivity of predatory bacteria to different surfactants and their application to check bacterial predation

  • Gayoung Cho
  • Jisoo Kwon
  • Sandrine Mabekou Soh
  • Hyochan Jang
  • Robert J. MitchellEmail author
Applied microbial and cell physiology


We evaluated the toxicity of surfactants against different predatory bacteria. Tests with Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus HD100 and SDS, an anionic surfactant, showed the predator was very sensitive; 0.02% SDS completely killed the predatory population (7-log loss; < 10 PFU/ml remaining) both when free-swimming or within the bdelloplast, i.e., intraperiplasmic. Similar results were also observed with B. bacteriovorus 109J and Peredibacter starrii. In contrast, none of the prey (E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, or Pseudomonas sp. DSM 50906) viabilities were negatively affected by SDS. Triton X-100, a nonionic surfactant, was slightly less toxic towards B. bacteriovorus HD100 (viability loss of only 4-log), while two cationic surfactants, i.e., benzalkonium chloride (BZC) and cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB), were toxic towards both the predator and prey. Based on the above findings, we tested the potential use of SDS as a means to control predation. Addition of 0.02% SDS immediately halted predation based upon the prey bioluminescence, which leveled off and remained steady. This was confirmed using the predator viabilities; no predators were found in any of the samples where SDS was added. Consequently, low concentrations of SDS can be used as a simple means to control B. bacteriovorus HD100 activities.


Predation Surfactant Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus SDS 



We would like to thank the UNIST Central Research Facilities (, specifically Jin-Hoe Hur at the UNIST Olympus Bioimaging Center, for use of the microscopes and imaging software. We would also like to thank Dr. Ajay K. Monnappa for discussions related to this study.

Author contributions

GC, JK, and RJM conceived the idea; GC, JK, HJ, and SMS conducted experiments; GC, JK, and RJM performed statistical analyses; and GC, JK, SMS, and RJM wrote the paper.

Funding information

Funding for this study was from the National Research Foundation of Korea within the Korea-Israel Collaborative Research Program (Grant No. 2016K1A3A1A31913217) and under the Space Core Technology Development Project (Grant No. 2017M1A3A3A02016642).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical statement

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

253_2019_10069_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (562 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 562 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUlsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST)UlsanSouth Korea

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