Interactions between Streptomyces coelicolor and Bacillus subtilis: Role of surfactants in raising aerial structures. Academic Article uri icon


  • Using mixed-species cultures, we have undertaken a study of interactions between two common spore-forming soil bacteria, Bacillus subtilis and Streptomyces coelicolor. Our experiments demonstrate that the development of aerial hyphae and spores by S. coelicolor is inhibited by surfactin, a lipopeptide surfactant produced by B. subtilis. Current models of aerial development by sporulating bacteria and fungi postulate a role for surfactants in reducing surface tension at air-liquid interfaces, thereby removing the major barrier to aerial growth. S. coelicolor produces SapB, an amphipathic peptide that is surface active and required for aerial growth on certain media. Loss of aerial hyphae in developmental mutants can be rescued by addition of purified SapB. While a surfactant from a fungus can substitute for SapB in a mutant that lacks aerial hyphae, not all surfactants have this effect. We show that surfactin is required for formation of aerial structures on the surface of B. subtilis colonies. However, in contrast to this positive role, our experiments reveal that surfactin acts antagonistically by arresting S. coelicolor aerial development and causing altered expression of developmental genes. Our observations support the idea that surfactants function specifically for a given organism regardless of their shared ability to reduce surface tension. Production of surfactants with antagonistic activity could provide a powerful competitive advantage during surface colonization and in competition for resources.

published proceedings

  • J Bacteriol

altmetric score

  • 5.08

author list (cited authors)

  • Straight, P. D., Willey, J. M., & Kolter, R.

citation count

  • 117

complete list of authors

  • Straight, Paul D||Willey, Joanne M||Kolter, Roberto

publication date

  • July 2006