A new concept ('enzyme sharing') concerning the interaction of marine nematodes and microbes in the degradation of sedimentary detritus is presented. Elements of this concept are (1) the notorious tendency of many aquatic nematodes to agglutinate detrital particles by mucus secretions, (2) new observations on the stimulation of microbial growth by nematodes in agar plates, and (3) literature data on limited endogenous proteolytic capacities of aquatic nematodes.Observations on nematode-microbe associations in agar plates prompted the conceptual synthesis. In agar medium without the addition of any nutrients a spectacular growth of bacteria was visible on the sinusoidal crawling trails of nematodes only 2-3 days after introduction of the worms (species of Adoncholaimus, Anoplostoma and Sabatieria). Juveniles of Anoplostoma that hatched in the agar cultures left their minute trails in the medium and these were rapidly occupied by bacteria. The nematodes repeatedly visited their bacterial trails, which persisted as a peculiar biotic structure for more than one year and survived the nematodes.In sterile agar preparations containing the fluorogenic methylumbelliferyl-beta-glucoside in the presence of the nematode Adoncholaimus an enhanced fluorescence of the medium was visible indicating beta-glucosidase activity. We therefore assume that oncholaimid nematodes discharge enzymes that alone, or in concert with microbial activities, contribute to the hydrolytic cleavage of refractory polysaccharides containing beta-glucosidic bonds such as agar components and cellulose. The sugars thus produced may then be taken up by the nematodes and concomitantly support the conspicuous growth of microbes. Since we did not observe any feeding of the nematodes on the associated microbes in agar plates, we question the nutritive potential of intact microbial cells for a number of nematodes abounding in detrital habitats, and call attention to the significance of ambient dissolved or adsorbed organic monomeric nutrients.Consequently, we perceive the puzzling perpetual accretion of detrital organic particles to sediment agglutinations by nematodes as an adaptation for operating an 'enzymatic reactor' for the production of dissolved nutrients. We hypothesize a relationship of mutual commensalism of nematodes and heterotrophic microbes in detrital habitats and propose the term 'enzyme sharing' for this relationship. Both parties invest in a common enzyme pool that decomposes organic detritus for their nutrition. We present here evidence that nematodes contribute beta-glucosidase that is involved in the cellulase system. Data from the literature suggest that microbial enzymatic processing of detrital proteins results in amino acids available to nematodes which apparently have no efficient proteolytic enzyme system in their intestines.
AWI Organizations > Biosciences > Ecological Chemistry