Longitudinal changes in the bacterial community composition of the Danube River: A whole-river approach

Christian Winter*, Thomas Hein, Gerhard Kavka, Robert L. Mach, Andreas H. Farnleitner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

106 Citations (Scopus)


The Danube River is the second longest river in Europe, and its bacterial community composition has never been studied before over its entire length. In this study, bacterial community composition was determined by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis of PCR-amplified portions of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene from a total of 98 stations on the Danube River (73 stations) and its major tributaries (25 stations), covering a distance of 2,581 km. Shifts in the bacterial community composition were related to changes in environmental conditions found by comparison with physicochemical parameters (e.g., temperature and concentration of nutrients) and the concentration of chlorophyll a (Chl a). In total, 43 distinct DGGE bands were detected. Sequencing of selected bands revealed that the phylotypes were associated with typical freshwater bacteria. Apparent bacterial richness in the Danube varied between 18 and 32 bands and correlated positively with the concentration of P-PO4 (r = 0.56) and negatively with Chl a (r = -0.52). An artificial neural network-based model explained 90% of the variation of apparent bacterial richness using the concentrations of N-NO2 and P-PO4 and the distance to the Black Sea as input parameters. Between the cities of Budapest and Belgrade, apparent bacterial richness was significantly lower than that of other regions of the river, and Chl a showed a pronounced peak. Generally, the bacterial community composition developed gradually; however, an abrupt and clear shift was detected in the section of the phytoplankton bloom. Large impoundments did not have a discernible effect on the bacterial community of the water column. In conclusion, the riverine bacterial community was largely influenced by intrinsic factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-431
Number of pages11
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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