Improved culturability of SAR11 strains in dilution-to-extinction culturing from the East Sea, West Pacific Ocean


  • Editor: Aharon Oren

Correspondence: Jang-Cheon Cho, Division of Biology and Ocean Sciences, Inha University, Incheon 402-751, Korea. Tel.: +82 32 860 7711; fax: +82 32 876 5541; e-mail:


Although the SAR11 clade of the Alphaproteobacteria represents the most abundant and ubiquitous bacterioplankton in the ocean, very few laboratories have successfully cultured SAR11 cells. All of the SAR11 strains isolated thus far have been retrieved from the Oregon coast and the Sargasso Sea. In this study, a modified dilution-to-extinction culturing with prolonged incubation at low temperature was applied in an effort to cultivate major bacterioplankton lineages in the East Sea, Western Pacific Ocean. Five to 10 cells were inoculated into each well of 48-well plates, followed by the incubation of the plates at 10 °C for 4, 8, 20, and 24 weeks. Among a total of 35 isolated strains, 18 strains assigned to the SAR11 clade were isolated after 8, 20, and 24 weeks of incubation, whereas no SAR11 cells were detected in the samples after 4 weeks of incubation. The SAR11 isolates, noticeably, comprised 64–82% of the total isolates from the plates incubated for 20 and 24 weeks. Extinction cultures belonging to the Roseobacter, OM43, and SAR92 clades were also cultivated. The results of this study suggest that long-term incubation at low temperatures might prove an alternative for the efficient cultivation of new variants of the members of the SAR11 clade.