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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Planctomycetes dominate biofilms on surfaces of the kelp Laminaria hyperborea

Mia M Bengtsson* and Lise Øvreås

Author Affiliations

Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Box 7803, N-5020 Bergen, Norway

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BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:261  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-261

Published: 15 October 2010



Bacteria belonging to Planctomycetes display several unique morphological and genetic features and are found in a wide variety of habitats on earth. Their ecological roles in these habitats are still poorly understood. Planctomycetes have previously been detected throughout the year on surfaces of the kelp Laminaria hyperborea from southwestern Norway. We aimed to make a detailed investigation of the abundance and phylogenetic diversity of planctomycetes inhabiting these kelp surfaces.


Planctomycetes accounted for 51-53% of the bacterial biofilm cells in July and September and 24% in February according to fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) results. Several separate planctomycetes lineages within Pirellulae, Planctomyces and OM190 were represented in 16S rRNA gene clone libraries and the most abundant clones belonged to yet uncultured lineages. In contrast to the abundance, the diversity of the planctomycete populations increased from July to February and was probably influenced by the aging of the kelp tissue. One planctomycete strain that was closely related to Rhodopirellula baltica was isolated using selective cultivation techniques.


Biofilms on surfaces of L. hyperborea display an even higher proportion of planctomycetes compared to other investigated planctomycete-rich habitats such as open water, sandy sediments and peat bogs. The findings agree well with the hypothesis of the role of planctomycetes as degraders of sulfated polymeric carbon in the marine environment as kelps produce such substances. In addition, the abundant planctomycete populations on kelp surfaces and in association with other eukaryotes suggest that coexistence with eukaryotes may be a key feature of many planctomycete lifestyles.