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Clostridial strain degeneration

Eva R. Kashket, Zhi-Yi Cao
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1574-6976.1995.tb00214.x 307-315 First published online: 1 October 1995

Abstract

Strain degeneration, the loss of the capacity to produce solvents and form spores, typically occurs when Clostridium acetobutylicum and related clostridia are repeatedly subcultured in batch culture or grown in continuous culture, as opposed to being grown from germinated, heat-treated spores. Several mechanisms for degeneration have been identified thus far. (i) Degeneration can be caused by excessive acidification of the culture during exponential growth. We present data interpreted to mean that C. beijerinckii (formerly C. acetobutylicum) NCIMB 8052 cells ferment glucose to acetic and butyric acids at an uncontrolled rate, so that, during rapid growth, the rate of acid production can exceed the rate of induction of the solventogenic pathway enzymes. As a result, the medium pH drops to bactericical levels, and the cells cannot switch to solventogenesis and sporulation. The clostridia seem to be poised either to produce excess acids, or to initiate solventogenesis, depending on small differences in the rates of growth. (ii) We have isolated transposon-insertion mutants of C. beijerinckii NCIMB 8052 that are resistant to degeneration, suggesting the involvement of a regulatory region of the clostridial chromosome. (iii) Involvement of a global regulatory gene has been inferred in C. beijerinckii NCIMB 8052 which degenerates irreversibly in chemostat culture. (iv) Impairment of butanol formation due to a defect in NADH generation has been reported in an oligosporogenous strain which can revert to the non-degenerate phenotype. (v) In continuous culture, degenerate cells may be selected because they continue to divide, while the non-degenerate cells stop dividing and start differentiating.

Keywords
  • Strain degeneration
  • Clostridium acetobutylicum
  • Clostridium beijerinckii
  • Degeneration resistance
  • Mutants
  • Solventogenesis
  • Sporulation
  • Mechanisms of degeneration
  • Culture pH
  • Transposon Tn1545
  • Saccharolytic clostridia

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