Bacteria secrete enzymes into the extracellular space to hydrolyze macromolecules into constituents that can be imported for microbial nutrition. In bacterial communities, these enzymes and their resultant products can be modeled as community property. Our goal was to investigate the impact of individual community member absence on the resulting community production of exoenzymes (extracellular enzymes) involved in lipid and protein hydrolysis. Our model community contained nine bacteria isolated from the potable water system of the International Space Station. Bacteria were grown in static conditions individually, all together, or in all combinations of eight species and exoproduct production was measured by colorimetric or fluorometric reagents to assess short chain and long chain lipases, choline-specific phospholipases C, and proteases. The exoenzyme production of each species grown alone varied widely, however, the enzyme activity levels of the mixed communities were functionally robust to absence of any single species, with the exception of phospholipase C production in one community. For phospholipase C, absence of Chryseobacterium gleum led to increased choline-specific phospholipase C production, correlated with increased growth of Burkholderia cepacia and Sphingomonas sanguinis. Because each individual species produced different enzyme activity levels in isolation, we calculated an expected activity value for each bacterial mixture using input levels or known final composition. This analysis suggested that robustness of each exoenzyme activity is not solely mediated by community composition, but possibly influenced by bacterial communication, which is known to regulate such pathways in many bacteria. We conclude that in this simplified model of a drinking water bacterial community, community structure imposes constraints on production and/or secretion of exoenzymes to generate a level appropriate to exploit a given nutrient environment.
Willsey, G. G., & Wargo, M. J. (2015). Extracellular lipase and protease production from a model drinking water bacterial community is functionally robust to absence of individual members. PLoS ONE, 10(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0143617