Nocturnal production of endospores in natural populations of Epulopiscium-like surgeonfish symbionts

Joseph F. Flint, Dan Drzymalski, W. Linn Montgomery, Gordon Southam, Esther R. Angert

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37 Scopus citations


Prior studies have described a morphologically diverse group of intestinal microorganisms associated with surgeonfish. Despite their diversity of form, 16S rRNA gene surveys and fluorescent in situ hybridizations indicate that these bacteria are low-G+C gram-positive bacteria related to Epulopiscium spp. Many of these bacteria exhibit an unusual mode of reproduction, developing multiple offspring intracellularly. Previous reports have suggested that some Epulopiscium-like symbionts produce dormant or phase-bright intracellular offspring. Close relatives of Epulopiscium, such as Metabacterium polyspora and Clostridium lentocellum, are endospore-forming bacteria, which raises the possibility that the phase-bright offspring are endospores. Structural evidence and the presence of dipicolinic acid demonstrate that phase-bright offspring of Epulopiscium-like bacteria are true endospores. In addition, endospores are formed as part of the normal daily life cycle of these bacteria. In the populations studied, mature endospores were seen only at night and the majority of cells in a given population produced one or two endospores per mother cell. Phylogenetic analyses confirmed the close relationship between the endospore-forming surgeonfish symbionts characterized here and previously described Epulopiscium spp. The broad distribution of endospore formation among the Epulopiscium phylogenetic group raises the possibility that sporulation is a characteristic of the group. We speculate that spore formation in Epulopiscium-like symbionts may be important for dispersal and may also enhance survival in the changing conditions of the fish intestinal tract.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7460-7470
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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