Applied and environmental microbiology

Protistan grazing analysis by flow cytometry using prey labeled by in vivo expression of fluorescent proteins.

PMID 14602649


Selective grazing by protists can profoundly influence bacterial community structure, and yet direct, quantitative observation of grazing selectivity has been difficult to achieve. In this investigation, flow cytometry was used to study grazing by the marine heterotrophic flagellate Paraphysomonas imperforata on live bacterial cells genetically modified to express the fluorescent protein markers green fluorescent protein (GFP) and red fluorescent protein (RFP). Broad-host-range plasmids were constructed that express fluorescent proteins in three bacterial prey species, Escherichia coli, Enterobacter aerogenes, and Pseudomonas putida. Micromonas pusilla, an alga with red autofluorescence, was also used as prey. Predator-prey interactions were quantified by using a FACScan flow cytometer and analyzed by using a Perl program described here. Grazing preference of P. imperforata was influenced by prey type, size, and condition. In competitive feeding trials, P. imperforata consumed algal prey at significantly lower rates than FP (fluorescent protein)-labeled bacteria of similar or different size. Within-species size selection was also observed, but only for P. putida, the largest prey species examined; smaller cells of P. putida were grazed preferentially. No significant difference in clearance rate was observed between GFP- and RFP-labeled strains of the same prey species or between wild-type and GFP-labeled strains. In contrast, the common chemical staining method, 5-(4,6-dichloro-triazin-2-yl)-amino fluorescein hydrochloride, depressed clearance rates for bacterial prey compared to unlabeled or RFP-labeled cells.

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5-([4,6-Dichlorotriazin-2-yl]amino)fluorescein hydrochloride, ≥90% (HPLC)
C23H12Cl2N4O5 · HCl