Advertisement

The Genus Saprospira

  • Hans Reichenbach

Abstract

Gram-negative gliding bacteria that form helical, multicellular filaments are grouped in the genus Saprospira (Fig. 1). All known species live in aquatic environments. They are moderately common but relatively difficult to isolate and therefore have not been studied very well, although some of them can be cultivated without problems. Relatively little has been added to our knowledge of Saprospira since the first edition of The Prokaryotes (Reichenbach and Dworkin, 1981).

Fig. 1.

Phase contrast photomicrographs of Saprospira grandis. (a) Helical filaments from a 1-day-old liquid culture, survey picture; ×180. (b) Filaments at higher magnification; ×500. (c) Decaying filament showing the individual cells; ×900. (d) Growing in the narrow space between agar and cover glass in a chamber culture, the filaments have lost most of their helical shape and concomitantly their ability to glide; ×920. (Lower left) Nonhelical filaments in a chamber culture with large, optically refractile, terminal bulbs; ×470. (Lower center and lower right) At very high magnification (×1000 and × 1200; Zeiss Axiomat) the cross-walls in the filaments are visible. The lower filament shows a constriction near one end, perhaps one possible way of filament fragmentation.

The genus Saprospira was defined by Gross (1911). He described two marine species, S. grandis and S. nana, of which only the former has since been isolated by other investigators. The two organisms differed considerably in their dimensions, as shown in Table 1, which lists some characteristics of the known strains of the genus.

Table 1.

Characteristics of the Saprospira strains.

Strain

Morphological characteristic (µm)a

GC content (mol%)

Habitat

Length of filament

Diameter of filament

Width of helix

Pitch of helix

Length of cell

S. grandis, Gross 1911

6–100

0.8

 

6–6.5

1.5–2.2

 

Marine

S. grandis, Lewin 1962

10–500

0.8–1.2

1.5–2

4–10

1–2.5

46–48

Marine

S. grandis, Dimitroff 1926b

50–90

1.2–1.4c

 

20–28

  

Oyster, marine

S. grandis, Reichenbach 1980

15–450

0.8–0.9

1.4–1.8

5–6.5

2.7–5.5

47

Marine

S. nana, Gross 1911

36

0.5

 

2.3–3

1.5–3

 

Marine

S. gigantea, Warming 1875

About 400

1.5–3

5–9

25–40

  

Marine

S. toviformis, Lewin and Mandel 1970

10–500

0.8

1.5

4–9

1–2.5

38

Marine

S. lepta, Dimitroff 1926b,d

54–92

0.5

1.6–4.8

5–13

  

Oyster, marine

S. puncta, Dimitroff 1926b,d

60–100

0.9–1.2

 

4–8

  

Oyster, marine

S. albida, Kolkwitz 1909

 

1

4–5

   

Fresh water

S. albida, Dyar 1947

About 400

 

2

3–6.5

  

Fresh water

S. albida, Lewin 1965b

10–500

0.8–1.2

1.5–2

3–7

2–3

40–43

Fresh water

S. albida, Ashton and Roberts 1987

10–450

0.8–0.9

1.4–1.6

2.9–4.9

2.1–2.7

 

Fresh water

S. flexuosa, Dobell 1912e

3–50

0.8

2

3

  

Fresh water

S. spiroidea, Skuja 1948f

10–250

0.3–0.5

2.8–5.7

9–25

3–15

 

Fresh water

S. flammula, Lewin 1965b

10–500

1.0

1.5

3–4

2–3

48

Fresh water

S. thermalis, Lewin 1965a

10–500

1.0

1.5–2.5

7–17

2–5

35–37

Fresh water

In the older literature, measurements were often taken from fixed and stained specimens which may have been considerably distorted.

From the description by Dimitroff it cannot be decided with confidence whether his organisms were true saprospiras.

It is not clear whether Dimitroff was talking about the width of the filament or the width of the helix.

With tapering ends.

Probably actually S. albida.

Achroonema spiroideum was equated with S. albida, but it forms a very lax helix, and, in this respect, it resembles S. thermalis more closely than S. albida.

It seems, however, that at least three other investigators had observed saprospiras before Gross. Kolkwitz (1909) described a freshwater saprospira under the name of Spirulina albida. He obviously believed his organism to be an apochlorotic blue-green “alga” (cyanobacterium).

In 1875, van Tieghem (1880) observed a delicate white scum that resembled Beggiatoa covering the mud in the water course of an old mill. Under the microscope, he discovered that the organism consisted of long, fine, helical filaments that were so tightly wound up that the coils touched. The helices moved by rotation around their long axis. The long filaments were also actively bending. He called this organism Spirulina alba, thereby deliberately emphasizing its close affinity to the blue-green algae of the same genus. Although his description is rather scant, it seems almost certain that he was dealing with a Saprospira species.

In the same year, Warming (1875) observed a very large helical organism in marine debris from the Danish coast and named it Spirochaeta gigantea. From his careful description, one can deduce that this organism, too, may have been a Saprospira species.

Not much was published in the five decades following the definition of the genus. In addition, until the middle of the 20th century, Saprospira was regularly regarded as belonging to the spirochetes, which caused considerable confusion. Gross (1912) himself stressed the similarity between Cristispira, which was also first defined by him, and Saprospira. To him and most other investigators at the time, the latter was essentially a spirochete without a crista or an axial filament. Unfortunately, in stained preparations, both organisms also showed a multichambered aspect, which was in fact a staining artifact but obscured the difference in organization of the two bacteria. Dobell (1912) described a new freshwater species, Saprospira flexuosa. From the careful description given by Dobell, one may deduce that his organism really was a Saprospira, perhaps S. albida as suggested by Lewin (1962), although this point cannot be decided because we do not know how many different freshwater saprospiras exist. During a study on helical bacteria in the digestive tract of oysters, Dimitroff (1926) observed several types of organisms which he regarded as saprospiras. One he identified with S. grandis, the others he described as new species, S. lepta and S. puncta. His account of the movements of his isolate of S. grandis leaves considerable doubt whether the bacterium was really Saprospira. On the other hand, he observed true cristispiras under the microscope and distinguished their very fast movements quite clearly from those of Saprospira. If one takes into account the fact that before the days of the phase contrast microscope, it was not so easy to observe living bacteria, it is easier to understand this uncertainty. It might be worthwhile to investigate again for the presence of saprospiras in shellfish. The two new species could never be observed by Dimitroff in the living state so their motility behavior is not known. They both had long, tapering ends with a sharp point, which is not known for any Saprospira species. The giant, gliding “spirochete” observed by Soriano in an enrichment culture and very briefly mentioned by him in the legend to a rather suggestive drawing (Soriano, 1945), was probably a (freshwater) saprospira. Dyar (1947) described the isolation and cultivation of a freshwater “spirochete.” This organism resembled Saprospira in many respects and indeed was later identified with S. albida by Pringsheim (1963). Skuja (1948) described the new species, Achroonema spiroideum, from Swedish lakes. The organism was later equated with S. albida (Lewin, 1962), but the very lax coils typical for Achroonema spiroideum leave some doubts whether this assignment is correct.

Many details about the morphology and physiology of the saprospiras were elucidated between 1960 and 1970 through the research of Lewin and his collaborators, who also defined several new species and emended the taxonomic position of the genus (Lewin, 1962, 1965a, 1965b, 1969, 1972; Lewin and Lounsbery, 1969; Lewin and Mandel, 1970). The phylogenetic relationship of Saprospira grandis was recently established by 16S rRNA oligonucleotide cataloging: The organism belongs to the Bacteroides-Flavobacterium-Cytophaga phylum (Paster et al., 1985). A relationship with the cyanobacterium Spirulina has specifically been ruled out (Reichenbach et al., 1986).

A short review of the genus Saprospira has recently been published (Reichenbach, 1989). A movie showing the movements and the development of the swarm colonies of Saprospira is also available (Reichenbach et al., 1975/1976; Reichenbach, 1980).

Keywords

Artificial Seawater Freshwater Species Casamino Acid Axial Filament Crude Culture 
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.

Literature Cited

  1. Aasen, A. J., S. Liaaen-Jensen. 1966a The carotenoids of flexibacteria II. A new xanthophyll from Saprospira grandis Acta Chem. Scand. 20 811–819PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aasen, A. J., S. Liaaen-Jensen. 1966b Carotenoids of flexibacteria IV. The carotenoids of two further pigment types Acta Chem. Scand. 20 2322–2324PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ashton, P. J., R. D. Robarts. 1987 Apparent predation of Microcystis aeruginosa Kütz. emend. Elenkin by a Saprospira-like bacterium in a hypertrophic lake (Hartbeespoort Dam, South Africa) J. Limnol. Soc. South Afr. 13 44–47Google Scholar
  4. Baechler, C. A., R. S. Berk. 1972 Ultrastructural observations of Pseudomonas aeruginosa: Rhapsidosomes Microstructures 3 24–31Google Scholar
  5. Brunel, J. 1949 Achroonema spiroideum Skuja 1948, of the Trichobacteriales, discovered simultaneously in Sweden and in Canada Contrib. Inst. Bot. Univ. Montreal 64 21–27Google Scholar
  6. Colwell, R. R. 1969 Numerical taxonomy of the flexibacteria J. Gen. Microbiol. 58 207–215PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Correll, D. L. 1968 Rhapidosomes: 2′-O-methylated ribonucleoproteins Science 161 372–373PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Correll, D. L., R. A. Lewin. 1964 Rod-shaped ribonucleoprotein particles from Saprospira Can. J. Microbiol. 10 63–74PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cyrus, Z., A. Sladká. 1970 Several interesting organisms present in activated sludge Hydrobiologia 35 383–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dawson, R. M. C., D. C. Elliott, W. H. Elliott, K. M. Jones (ed.) 1972 Data for biochemical research, p. 508 Clarendon Press OxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Delk, A. S., C. A. Dekker. 1969 Rhapidosomes: Absence of a highly 2′-O-methylated RNA component Science 166 1646–1647PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Delk, A. S., C. A. Dekker. 1972 Characterization of rhapidosomes of Saprospira grandis J. Mol. Biol. 64 287–295PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dietrich, W. E., J. Biggins. 1971 Respiratory mechanisms in the Flexibacteriaceae: Terminal oxidase systems of Saprospira grandis and Vitreoscilla species J. Bacteriol. 105 1083–1089PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Dimitroff, V. T. 1926 Spirochetes in Baltimore market oysters J. Bacteriol. 12 135–177PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Dobell, C. 1912 Researches on the spirochaets and related organisms Arch. Protistenk. 26 117–240Google Scholar
  16. Dyar, M. T. 1947 Isolation and cytological study of a free-living spirochete J. Bacteriol. 54 483–493PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Fager, E. W. 1969 Recurrent group analysis in the classification of flexibacteria J. Gen. Microbiol. 58 179–187PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ferry, J. G., P. H. Smith, R. S. Wolfe. 1974 Methanospirillum, a new genus of methanogenic bacteria, and characterization of Methanospirillum hungatii sp. nov Internat. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 24 465–469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fox, D. L., R. A. Lewin. 1963 A preliminary study of the carotenoids of some flexibacteria Can. J. Microbiol. 9 753–768CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gross, J. 1911 Über freilebende Spironemaceen Mitt. Zool. Stat. Neapel 20 188–203Google Scholar
  21. Gross, J. 1912 Über Systematik, Struktur und Fortpflanzung der Spironemacea Zbl. Bakteriol. 1. Abt. Orig. 65 83–98Google Scholar
  22. Jarosch, R. 1967 Studien zur Bewegungsmechanik der Bakterien und Spirochäten des Hochmoors Österr. Bot. Zschr. 114 255–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kolkwitz, R. 1909 Kryptogamenflora der Mark Brandenburg, Band V, p. 137 Gebrüder Borntraeger LeipzigGoogle Scholar
  24. Lewin, R. A. 1962 Saprospira grandis Gross; and suggestions for reclassifying helical, apochlorotic, gliding organisms Can. J. Microbiol. 8 555–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lewin, R. A. 1963 Rod-shaped particles in Saprospïra Nature 198 103–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lewin, R. A. 1965a Isolation and some physical features of Saprospira thermalis Can. J. Microbiol. 11 77–86PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lewin, R. A. 1965b Freshwater species of Saprospira Can. J. Microbiol. 11 135–139PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lewin, R. A. 1969 A classification of flexibacteria J. Gen. Microbiol. 58 189–206PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lewin, R. A. 1972 Growth and nutrition of Saprospira grandis Gross (Flexibacterales) Can. J. Microbiol. 18 361–365PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lewin, R. A., J. Kiethe. 1965 Formation of rhapidosomes in Saprospira Can. J. Microbiol. 11 935–938PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lewin, R. A., D. M. Lounsbery. 1969 Isolation, cultivation and characterization of flexibacteria J. Gen. Microbiol. 58 145–170PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lewin, R. A., M. Mandel. 1970 Saprospira toviformis nov. spec. (Flexibacterales) from a New Zealand seashore Can. J. Microbiol. 16 507–510PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lewin, R. A., D. M. Crothers, D. L. Correll, B. E. Reimann. 1964 A phage infecting Saprospira grandis Can. J. Microbiol. 10 75–85PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mandel, M., R. A. Lewin. 1969 Deoxyribonucleic acid base composition of flexibacteria J. Gen. Microbiol. 58 171–178PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pate, J. L., J. L. Johnson, E. J. Ordal. 1967 The fine structure of Chondrococcus columnaris. II. Structure and formation of rhapidosomes J. Cell. Biol. 35 15–35PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Paster, B. J., W. G. Weisburg, E. Stackebrandt, R. B. Hespell, C. M. Hahn, H. Reichenbach, K. O. Stetter, C. R. Woese. 1985 A phylogenetic grouping of the bacteroides, cytophagas and certain flavobacteria Syst. Appl. Microbiol. 6 34–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Price, A. R., F. Rottman. 1970 Nucleic acids from Saprospira grandis: The absence of 2′-O-methylated RNA Biochim. Biophys. Acta 199 288–291PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pringsheim, E. G. 1963 Farblose Algen Gustav Fischer Verlag Stuttgart 111Google Scholar
  39. Reichenbach, H. 1967 Die wahre Natur der Myxobakterien-“Rhapidosomen.” Arch. Mikrobiol. 56 371–383PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Reichenbach, H. 1980 Saprospira grandis (Leucotrichales): Growth and movement Publik. Wiss. Film, Sekt. Biol., Ser. 13, Nr. 26 1–21Google Scholar
  41. Reichenbach, H. 1989 Genus Saprospira Gross 1911, 202 In: J. T. Staley, M. P. Bryant, N. Pfennig, and J. G. Holt (ed.) Bergey’s manual of systematic bacteriology Williams and Wilkins Baltimore 3 2077–2082Google Scholar
  42. Reichenbach, H., M. Dworkin. 1981 The order Cytophagales (with addenda on the genera Herpetosiphon, Saprospira, and Flexithrix) In: M. P. Starr, H. Stolp, H. G. Trüper, A. Balows, and H. G. Schlegel (ed.) The prokaryotes Springer-Verlag Berlin 356–379Google Scholar
  43. Reichenbach, H., H. K. Galle, H. H. Heunert. 1975/1976 Saprospira grandis (Leucotrichales) Enzyclopaedia Cinematographica E 2424, film* of the Institut für den wissenschaftlichen Film, Göttingen Wachstum und Bewegung Federal Republic of GermanyGoogle Scholar
  44. Reichenbach, H., W. Ludwig, E. Stackebrandt. 1986 Lack of relationship between gliding cyanobacteria and filamentous gliding heterotrophic eubacteria: Comparison of 16S rRNA catalogues of Spirulina, Saprospira, Vitreoscilla, Leucothrix, and Herpetosiphon Arch. Microbiol. 145 391–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Reichle, R. E., R. A. Lewin. 1968 Purification and structure of rhapidosomes Can. J. Microbiol. 14 211–213PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sanfilippo, A., R. A. Lewin. 1970 Preservation of viable flexibacteria at low temperatures Can. J. Microbiol. 16 441–444PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Skuja, H. 1948 Taxonomie des Phytoplanktons einiger Seen in Uppland, Schweden Symbolae Botanicae Upsalienses 9 1–399Google Scholar
  48. Sladká, A., V. Ottová. 1973 Filamentous organisms in activated sludge Hydrobiologia 43 285–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Soriano, S. 1945 Un nuovo orden de bacterias: Flexibacteriales Ciencia e Investigacion 1 92–93Google Scholar
  50. van Tieghem, P. 1880 Observations sur les Bacteriacées vertes, sur des Phycochromacées blanches, et sur les affinités de ces deux familles Bull. Soc. Bot. France 27 174–179Google Scholar
  51. Warming, E. 1875 Om nogle ved Danmarks Kyster levende Bakterier Videnskabelige Meddelelser fra den naturhistoriske Forening i Kjöbenhaven for Aaret 1875 307–420Google Scholar
  52. Webster, D. A., D. P. Hackett. 1966 Respiratory chain of colorless algae II Cyanophyta. Plant Physiol. 41 599–605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Willard, J. M., M. Gibbs. 1968 Purification and characterization of the fructose diphosphate aldolases from Anacystis nidulans and Saprospira thermalis Biochim. Biophys. Acta 151 438–448PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Yamamoto, T. 1967 Presence of rhapidosomes in various species of bacteria and their morphological characteristics J. Bacteriol. 94 1746–1756PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Reichenbach

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations