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Vibrio cholerae is a human pathogenic marine bacterium inhabiting coastal regions and is vectored into human food and water supplies via attachment to particles including detritus, phytoplankton, and zooplankton. Particle colonization by the pathogen is inhibited by an antagonistic interaction with the particle-associated Vibrionales bacterium SWAT3, a producer of the antibiotic andrimid. By analyzing the individual movement behaviors of V. cholerae exposed to a gradient of andrimid in a microfluidics device, we show that the pathogen has a concentration dependent avoidance response to sub-lethal concentrations of the pure antibiotic and to the metabolites produced by a growing colony of SWAT3-wild-type. This avoidance behavior includes a 25% increase in swimming speeds, 30% increase in run lengths, and a shift in the direction of the bacteria away from the andrimid source. Consequently, these behavioral shifts at low concentrations of andrimid would lead to higher diffusivity and result in the dispersion of bacteria away from the competitor and source of the antibiotic. Such alterations in motility were not elicited in response to a non-andrimid-producing SWAT3 mutant, suggesting andrimid may be a negative effector of chemotaxis for V. cholerae. The behavioral response of colonizing bacteria to sub-inhibitory concentrations of competitor-produced antibiotics is one mechanism that can influence microbial diversity and interspecific competition on particles, potentially affecting human health in coastal communities and element cycling in the ocean.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.