Bacteria Contribute Exopolysaccharides to an Algal-Bacterial Joint Extracellular Matrix

Valeria Lipsman, Olesia Shlakhter, Jorge Rocha, Einat Segev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Marine ecosystems are influenced by phytoplankton aggregation, which affects processes like marine snow formation and harmful events such as marine mucilage outbreaks. Phytoplankton secrete exopolymers, creating an extracellular matrix (ECM) that promotes particle aggregation. This ECM attracts heterotrophic bacteria, providing a nutrient-rich and protective environment. In terrestrial environments, bacterial colonization near primary producers relies on attachment and the formation of multidimensional structures like biofilms. Bacteria were observed attaching and aggregating within algal-derived exopolymers, but it is unclear if bacteria produce an ECM that contributes to this colonization. This study, using Emiliania huxleyi algae and Phaeobacter inhibens bacteria in an environmentally relevant model system, reveals a shared algal-bacterial ECM scaffold that promotes algal-bacterial aggregation. Algal exudates play a pivotal role in promoting bacterial colonization, stimulating bacterial exopolysaccharide (EPS) production, and facilitating a joint ECM formation. A bacterial biosynthetic pathway responsible for producing a specific EPS contributing to bacterial ECM formation is identified. Genes from this pathway show increased expression in algal-rich environments. These findings highlight the underestimated role of bacteria in aggregate-mediated processes in marine environments, offering insights into algal-bacterial interactions and ECM formation, with implications for understanding and managing natural and perturbed aggregation events.
Original languageEnglish
Article number36
Number of pages16
Journalnpj Biofilms and Microbiomes
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2024


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