Response of bacteria to earthworm surface excreta

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Response of bacteria to the surface excreta of the Aporrectodea caliginosa earthworm was studied. The excreta were obtained by a 1 h incubation of the earthworms in petri dishes with subsequent collection of the slime. Both inhibition and stimulation of growth were revealed, as well as suppression of the respiratory activity of some bacterial species treated with A. caliginosa surface excreta. The organisms studied included various taxa of soil bacteria (19 strains), bacteria isolated from A. caliginosa intestine and excrements (82 strain), and 48 Bacillus thuringiensis strains. For the cultures of soil bacteria, the respiratory activity was determined using the formazan color reaction due to the activity of the respiratory cycle enzymes. Earthworm excreta caused a consistent 30–50% decrease of dehydrogenase activity in 13 out of the 19 cultures. Determination of the growth rates (derived from OD620 of cell suspensions) after 10 h of incubation revealed growth stimulation in 48 out of the 82 strains isolated from intestines and excrement. Other strains exhibited no reaction to the excreta. For 29 out of 45 B. thuringiensis strains, growth stimulation was observed, while growth of two strains was suppressed; other strains exhibited no reaction to the excreta. No relation was found between bacterial reaction to the excreta and their taxonomic position. These results correlate with the research, demonstrating antibacterial and antifungal activity of the extracts from the earthworm body and digestive tract. Thus, earthworms, apart from their medium-forming function, affect the formation of soil microbial communities by direct stimulation or suppression of specific microbial populations.

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