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Diversity and Dynamics of a North Atlantic Coastal Vibrio Community

American Society for Microbiology
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  • Microbial Ecology
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Vibrios are ubiquitous marine bacteria that have long served as models for heterotrophic processes and have received renewed attention because of the discovery of increasing numbers of facultatively pathogenic strains. Because the occurrence of specific vibrios has frequently been linked to the temperature, salinity, and nutrient status of water, we hypothesized that seasonal changes in coastal water bodies lead to distinct vibrio communities and sought to characterize their level of differentiation. A novel technique was used to quantify shifts in 16S rRNA gene abundance in samples from Barnegat Bay, N.J., collected over a 15-month period. Quantitative PCR (QPCR) with primers specific for the genus Vibrio was combined with separation and quantification of amplicons by constant denaturant capillary electrophoresis (CDCE). Vibrio populations identified by QPCR-CDCE varied between summer and winter samples, suggesting distinct warm-water and year-round populations. Identification of the CDCE populations by cloning and sequencing of 16S rRNA genes from two summer and two winter samples confirmed this distinction. It further showed that CDCE populations corresponded in most cases to ∼98% rRNA similarity groups and suggested that the abundance of these follows temperature trends. Phylogenetic comparison yielded closely related cultured and often pathogenic representatives for most sequences, and the temperature ranges of these isolates confirmed the trends seen in the environmental samples. Overall, this suggests that temperature is a good predictor of the occurrence of closely related vibrios but that considerable microdiversity of unknown significance coexists within this trend.

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