Selective Advantage of a Spirillum sp. in a Carbon-limited Environment. Accumulation of Poly-β-hydroxybutyric Acid and Its Role in Starvation

A. Matin, C. Veldhuis, V. Stegeman, M. Veenhuis

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A freshwater Spirillum sp., which apparently belongs to a niche of low nutritional status, accumulated poly-β-hydroxybutyric acid (PHB) during lactate-limited growth in continuous culture. The PHB content varied in a complex manner with the dilution rate (D), but was greatest at the lowest D value examined: about 18 % (w/w) at D = 0.025 h-1. It is not known what mechanism accounted for PHB accumulation during carbon-limited growth. The resistance of cultures of Spirillum sp. to starvation after growth at various D values was compared with that of a Pseudomonas sp. which appears to belong to relatively richer environments and does not accumulate PHB. In Spirillum sp., resistance correlated directly with the PHB content of the culture subjected to starvation, whereas in Pseudomonas sp. it increased with RNA content. Further, after growth at D = 0.03 to 0.05 h-1, the Spirillum sp. was much more resistant to starvation than was the Pseudomonas sp. Since the microflora of oligotrophic environments are probably often subjected to starvation conditions, PHB accumulation by Spirillum sp. during growth in such environments may assist survival. PHB in Spirillum sp. was rapidly degraded during starvation but it had no sparing effect on RNA degradation. It is not known how PHB enhanced resistance to starvation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of general microbiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1979

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