Huddling together to survive: Population density as a survival strategy of non-spore forming bacteria under nutrient starvation and desiccation at solid-air interfaces

Rosha Pashang, Evan Ronan, Otini Kroukamp, Darren R. Korber, Andrew E. Laursen, Jannis Wenk, Gideon M. Wolfaardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Acclimation and flexible response mechanisms are survival adaptations allowing prokaryotic cells to colonize diverse habitats and maintain viability in nature. Lack of water significantly impacts cellular response, which can be partially compensated for through community interactions and accessing survival means beyond the cell's boundaries. In the present study, higher numbers of cultivable Gram-positive Arthrobacter sp. and Gram-negative Pseudomonas stutzeri cells were found on surfaces when high population density was used after prolonged periods of desiccation and nutrient starvation. Total cell counts during desiccation periods decreased slower than culturable cell counts independently from initial population density. The presence of homogenate, prepared by filtering homogenized cultures through a 0.2 µm filter, extended culturability of Arthrobacter sp. cells, while intact heat-killed cells extended the culturability of Arthrobacter sp. and P. stutzeri. Our results suggest very slow cell membrane breakdown for desiccated bacterial cells at solid-air interfaces over extended time spans, which may serve as reservoirs of nutrients, and may potentially provide trace amounts of water for surviving cells. Higher initial population density and recycling of resources from “zombie”-like cells, may support growth in a similar fashion as access to cell lysates or the contents of heat-killed cells analogous to dead-phase cultures where some cells experience cryptic growth.

Original languageEnglish
Article number126997
JournalMicrobiological Research
Volume258
Early online date26 Feb 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2022

Keywords

  • Bacteria population dynamics
  • Desiccation tolerance
  • Dry surface biofilms
  • Microbial survival strategy
  • Monitoring dried microbial cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology

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