In and out: An analysis of epibiotic vs periplasmic bacterial predators

Z. Pasternak*, M. Njagi, Y. Shani, R. Chanyi, O. Rotem, M. N. Lurie-Weinberger, S. Koval, S. Pietrokovski, U. Gophna, E. Jurkevitch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Bdellovibrio and like organisms (BALO) are obligate predators of Gram-negative bacteria, belonging to the α- and δ-proteobacteria. BALO prey using either a periplasmic or an epibiotic predatory strategy, but the genetic background underlying these phenotypes is not known. Here we compare the epibiotic Bdellovibrio exovorus and Micavibrio aeruginosavorus to the periplasmic B. bacteriovorus and Bacteriovorax marinus. Electron microscopy showed that M. aeruginosavorus, but not B. exovorus, can attach to prey cells in a non-polar manner through its longitudinal side. Both these predators were resistant to a surprisingly high number of antibiotic compounds, possibly via 26 and 19 antibiotic-resistance genes, respectively, most of them encoding efflux pumps. Comparative genomic analysis of all the BALOs revealed that epibiotic predators have a much smaller genome (ca. 2.5 Mbp) than the periplasmic predators (ca. 3.5 Mbp). Additionally, periplasmic predators have, on average, 888 more proteins, at least 60% more peptidases, and one more rRNA operon. Fifteen and 219 protein families were specific to the epibiotic and the periplasmic predators, respectively, the latter clearly forming the core of the periplasmic 'predatome', which is upregulated during the growth phase. Metabolic deficiencies of epibiotic genomes include the synthesis of inosine, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and the siderophore aerobactin. The phylogeny of the epibiotic predators suggests that they evolved by convergent evolution, with M. aeruginosavorus originating from a non-predatory ancestor while B. exovorus evolved from periplasmic predators by gene loss.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-635
Number of pages11
JournalISME Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014


FundersFunder number
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Israel Science Foundation1290/08, 1583/12


    • Bdellovibrio and like organisms
    • comparative genomics
    • epibiotic predators
    • microbial predators
    • periplasmic predators


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