Allelopathy-mediated competition in microbial mats from Antarctic lakes

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Microbial mats are vertically stratified communities that host a complex consortium of microorganisms, dominated by cyanobacteria, which compete for available nutrients and environmental niches, within these extreme habitats. The Antarctic Dry Valleys near McMurdo Sound include a series of lakes within the drainage basin that are bisected by glacial traverses. These lakes are traditionally independent, but recent increases in glacial melting have allowed two lakes (Chad and Hoare) to become connected by a meltwater stream. Microbial mats were collected from these lakes, and cultured under identical conditions at the McMurdo Station laboratory. Replicate pairings of the microbial mats exhibited consistent patterns of growth inhibition indicative of competitive dominance. Natural products were extracted from the microbial mats, and a disk diffusion assay was utilized to show that allelochemical compounds mediate competitive interactions. Both microscopy and 16S rRNA sequencing show that these mats contain significant populations of cyanobacteria known to produce allelochemicals. Two compounds were isolated from these microbial mats that might be important in the chemical ecology of these psychrophiles. In other disk:mat pairings, including extract versus mat of origin, the allelochemicals exhibited no effect. Taken together, these results indicate that Antarctic lake microbial mats can compete via allelopathy.

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