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Lake Cadagno, a crenogenic meromictic lake located in the catchment area of a dolomite vein rich in gypsum in the Piora Valley in the southern Alps of Switzerland, is characterized by a compact chemocline with high concentrations of sulfate, steep gradients of oxygen, sulfide and light and a turbidity maximum that correlates to large numbers of bacteria (up to 107 cells ml-1). The most abundant taxa in the chemocline are large- and small-celled purple sulfur bacteria, which account for up to 35% of all bacteria, and sulfate- reducing bacteria that represent up to 23% of all bacteria. Depending on the season, as much as 45% of all bacteria in the chemocline are associated in aggregates consisting of different populations of small-celled purple sulfur bacteria of the genus Lamprocystis (up to 35% of all bacteria) and sulfate-reducing bacteria of the family Desulfobulbaceae (up to 12% of all bacteria) that are almost completely represented by bacteria closely related to Desulfocapsa thiozymogenes. Their association in aggregates is restricted to small-celled purple sulfur bacteria of the genus Lamprocystis, but not obligate since non-associated cells of bacteria related to D. thiozymogenes are frequently found, especially under limited light conditions in winter and early summer. Aggregate formation and concomitant growth enhancement of isolates of both partners of this association suggests synergistic interactions that might resemble a sulfide-based source-sink relationship between the sulfate-reducing bacterium that is able to sustain growth by a disproportionation of inorganic sulfur compounds (sulfur, thiosulfate, sulfite), with the purple sulfur bacteria acting as a biotic scavenger. The availability of these isolates opens up the door for future studies considering other facets of potential interactions in aggregates since both types of organisms are metabolically highly versatile and interactions may not be limited to sulfur compounds only.
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