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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1993 Dec;59(12):4236-44.

Growth of Azotobacter vinelandii UWD in Fish Peptone Medium and Simplified Extraction of Poly-beta-Hydroxybutyrate.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2E9.


Azotobacter vinelandii UWD was grown in a fermentor with glucose medium with and without 0.1% fish peptone (FP) in batch and fed-batch cultures for the production of the natural bioplastic poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate (PHB). Strain UWD formed PHB five times faster than cell protein during growth in glucose and NH(4), but PHB synthesis stopped when NH(4) was depleted and nitrogen fixation started. When FP was added to the same medium, PHB accumulated 16 times faster than cell protein, which in turn was inhibited by 40%, and PHB synthesis was unaffected by NH(4) depletion. Thus, FP appeared to be used as a nitrogen source by these nitrogen-fixing cells, which permitted enhanced PHB synthesis, but it was not a general growth stimulator. The addition of FP to the medium led to the production of large, pleomorphic, osmotically sensitive cells that demonstrated impaired growth and partial lysis, with the leakage of DNA into the culture fluid, but these cells were still able to synthesize PHB at elevated rates and efficiency. When FP was continuously present in fed-batch culture, the yield in grams of polymer per gram of glucose consumed was calculated to range from 0.43 g/g, characteristic of nongrowing cells, to an unprecedented 0.65 g/g. Separation of an FP-free growth phase from an FP-containing growth phase in fed-batch culture resulted in better growth of these pleomorphic cells and good production of PHB (yield, 0.32 g/g). The fragility of these cells was exploited in a simple procedure for the extraction of high-molecular-weight PHB. The cells were treated with 1 N aqueous NH(3) (pH 11.4) at 45 degrees C for 10 min. This treatment removed about 10% of the non-PHB mass from the pellet, of which 60 to 77% was protein. The final product consisted of 94% PHB, 2% protein, and 4% nonprotein residual mass. The polymer molecular weight (1.7 x 10 to 2.0 x 10) and dispersity (1.0 to 1.9) were not significantly affected (P = 0.05) by this treatment. In addition, the NH(3) extraction waste could be recycled in the fermentation as a nitrogen source, but it did not promote PHB production like FP. A scheme for improved downstream extraction of PHB as well as the merits of using pleomorphic cells in the production of bioplastics is discussed.

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