Novel method reveals a narrow phylogenetic distribution of bacterial dispersers in environmental communities exposed to low-hydration conditions

U.S. Krüger, F. Bak, J. Aamand, O. Nybroe, N. Badawi, B.F. Smets, A. Dechesne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we developed a method that provides profiles of communitylevel surface dispersal from environmental samples under controlled hydration conditions and enables us to isolate and uncover the diversity of the fastest bacterial dispersers. The method expands on the porous surface model (PSM), previously used to monitor the dispersal of individual bacterial strains in liquid films at the surface of a porous ceramic disc. The novel procedure targets complex communities and captures the dispersed bacteria on a solid medium for growth and detection. The method was first validated by distinguishing motile Pseudomonas putida and Flavobacterium johnsoniae strains from their nonmotile mutants. Applying the method to soil and lake water bacterial communities showed that community-scale dispersal declined as conditions became drier. However, for both communities, dispersal was detected even under low-hydration conditions (matric potential, -3.1 kPa) previously proven too dry for P. putida strain KT2440 motility. We were then able to specifically recover and characterize the fastest dispersers from the inoculated communities. For both soil and lake samples, 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing revealed that the fastest dispersers were substantially less diverse than the total communities. The dispersing fraction of the soil microbial community was dominated by Pseudomonas species cells, which increased in abundance under low-hydration conditions, while the dispersing fraction of the lake community was dominated by Aeromonas species cells and, under wet conditions (-0.5 kPa), also by Exiguobacterium species cells. The results gained in this study bring us a step closer to assessing the dispersal ability within complex communities under environmentally relevant conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02857-17
Number of pages16
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Community motility
  • Lake water
  • Liquid film
  • Porous surface model
  • Pseudomonas putida KT2440
  • Soil
  • Succession

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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