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Heterotrophic growth of Thiobacillus acidophilus in batch and chemostat cultures


Heterotrophic growth of the facultatively chemolithoautotrophic acidophile Thiobacillus acidophilus was studied in batch cultures and in carbon-limited chemostat cultures. The spectrum of carbon sources supporting heterotrophic growth in batch cultures was limited to a number of sugars and some other simple organic compounds. In addition to ammonium salts and urea, a number of amino acids could be used as nitrogen sources. Pyruvate served as a sole source of carbon and energy in chemostat cultures, but not in batch cultures. Apparently the low residual concentrations in the steady-state chemostat cultures prevented substrate inhibition that already was observed at 150 μM pyruvate. Molar growth yields of T. acidophilus in heterotrophic chemostat cultures were low. The Y max and maintenance coefficient of T. acidophilus grown under glucose limitation were 69 g biomass · mol−1 and 0.10 mmol · g−1 · h−1, respectively. Neither the Y max nor the maintenance coefficient of glucose-limited chemostat cultures changed when the culture pH was increased from 3.0 to 4.3. This indicates that in T. acidophilus the maintenance of a large pH gradient is not a major energy-requiring process. Significant activities of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase were retained during heterotrophic growth on a variety of carbon sources, even under conditions of substrate excess. Also thiosulphate- and tetrathionate-oxidising activities were expressed under heterotrophic growth conditions.

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Pronk, J.T., Meesters, P.J.W., van Dijken, J.P. et al. Heterotrophic growth of Thiobacillus acidophilus in batch and chemostat cultures. Arch. Microbiol. 153, 392–398 (1990).

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Key words

  • Thiobacillus acidophilus
  • Acidophiles
  • Maintenance
  • Growth yields
  • Organic acids