Sphingomonas alaskensis Strain AFO1, an Abundant Oligotrophic Ultramicrobacterium from the North Pacific

Mitsuru Eguchi, Martin Ostrowski, Fitri Fegatella, John Bowman, David Nichols, Tomohiko Nishino, Ricardo Cavicchioli*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


Numerous studies have established the importance of picoplankton (microorganisms of ≤2 μ,m in length) in energy flow and nutrient cycling in marine oligotrophic environments, and significant effort has been directed at identifying and isolating heterotrophic picoplankton from the world's oceans. Using a method of diluting natural seawater to extinction followed by monthly subculturing for 12 months, a bacterium was isolated that was able to form colonies on solid medium. The strain was isolated from a 105 dilution of seawater where the standing bacterial count was 3.1 × 105 cells ml-1. This indicated that the isolate was representative of the most abundant bacteria at the sampling site, 1.5 km from Cape Muroto, Japan. The bacterium was characterized and found to be ultramicrosized (less than 0.1 μm3), and the size varied to only a small degree when the cells were starved or grown in rich media. A detailed molecular (16S rRNA sequence, DNA-DNA hybridization, G+C mol%, genome size), chemotaxonomic (lipid analysis, morphology), and physiological (resistance to hydrogen peroxide, heat, and ethanol) characterization of the bacterium revealed that it was a strain of Sphingomonas alaskensis. The type strain, RB2256, was previously isolated from Resurrection Bay, Alaska, and similar isolates have been obtained from the North Sea. The isolation of this species over an extended period, its high abundance at the time of sampling, and its geographical distribution indicate that it has the capacity to proliferate in ocean waters and is therefore likely to be an important contributor in terms of biomass and nutrient cycling in marine environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4945-4954
Number of pages10
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number3-12
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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