Microbial ecology

Community structure of planktonic fungi and the impact of parasitic chytrids on phytoplankton in Lake Inba, Japan.

PMID 21805083


Freshwater fungi have received little attention by scientific research in recent years, especially fungi of the pelagic zone. Recently, parasitic fungi, termed chytrids, have been found to play important roles in aquatic food webs. Yet, the diversity and community structure of planktonic fungi including chytrids are not well studied. In this study, we examined the temporal fluctuations of freshwater fungi, including chytrids, in Lake Inba by using molecular techniques of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). DGGE profiles, and associated sequence analysis, indicated that chytrids were present on all sampling dates from May to October (n = 12). In addition, analysis showed that a large proportion of the sequences belonged to chytrids of both parasitic and saprotrophic species. This finding was supported by microscopic observations using Calcofluor white to stain chytrids infecting various phytoplankton species. The percentages of infection by chytrids on two dominant diatom species, Aulacoseira granulata and Aulacoseira ambigua, showed a similar seasonal pattern in the DGGE band profiles. From the phylogenetic analysis and microscopic identification, the chytrids infecting the two diatoms are likely to be affiliated to Chytriomyces sp. and Zygorhizidium sp.. This is the first study to show that DGGE is a useful preliminary approach for examining the diversity of planktonic fungi including chytrids. Our results indicate both parasitic and saprotrophic chytrids are a significant component of freshwater fungi inhabiting the pelagic zone of Lake Inba, Japan. Further modification of DGGE, together with new molecular techniques and microscopic observation, would reveal the hidden diversity and ecological significance of planktonic fungi in aquatic ecosystems.

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