Identification and cultivation of anaerobic bacterial scavengers of dead cells

The ISME journal(2023)

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The cycle of life and death and Earth’s carbon cycle(s) are intimately linked, yet how bacterial cells, one of the largest pools of biomass on Earth, are recycled back into the carbon cycle remains enigmatic. In particular, no bacteria capable of scavenging dead cells in oxygen-depleted environments have been reported thus far. In this study, we discover the first anaerobes that scavenge dead cells and the two isolated strains use distinct strategies. Based on live-cell imaging, transmission electron microscopy, and hydrolytic enzyme assays, one strain (designated CYCD) relied on cell-to-cell contact and cell invagination for degrading dead food bacteria where as the other strain (MGCD) degraded dead food bacteria via excretion of lytic extracellular enzymes. Both strains could degrade dead cells of differing taxonomy (bacteria and archaea) and differing extents of cell damage, including those without artificially inflicted physical damage. In addition, both depended on symbiotic metabolic interactions for maximizing cell degradation, representing the first cultured syntrophic Bacteroidota . We collectively revealed multiple symbiotic bacterial decomposition routes of dead prokaryotic cells, providing novel insight into the last step of the carbon cycle.
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