Regulation of parasitism by host density: The Bdellovibrio-Rhizobium interrelationship
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Rhizobium strains of the cowpea group did not lose viability readily when added to soil, but Bdellovibrio acting on these rhizobia were found in 32 of 90 soils examined. Bdellovibrio did not initiate replication in liquid media at low host densities, but it did multiply once the Rhizohium numbers increased through growth to about 108 ml−1. From about 104 to 6 × 105 ml−1Rhizohium cells survived attack by the parasites in liquid media. In nutrient-free buffer, no significant increase in vibrio abundance was evident if the rhizobial frequency was low. whereas Rhizobium populations containing 6 × 108 cells ml−1 were lysed rapidly. Bdellovibrio did not multiply when introduced into sterile soil with small numbers of the host, but it replicated when the rhizobia were abundant because of the latter's use of soil organic matter for growth or because of the deliberate addition of 108Rhizohium g−1. Nevertheless, the host persisted in such vibrio-rich soil samples. The abundance of indigenous bdellovibrios increased appreciably in nonsterile soil if the rhizobia were introduced in large but not small numbers. It is suggested that a major reason for the lack of elimination of the host population in soil by its parasites is the need for a critical host cell frequency, large Rhizobium numbers being required for Btiellovibrio to initiate replication and low numbers of surviving hosts no longer being able to support the parasite.