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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1990 Sep;56(9):2876-81.

Preferential osmolyte accumulation: a mechanism of osmotic stress adaptation in diazotrophic bacteria.

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Plant Growth Laboratory and Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California, Davis, California 95616.


A common cellular mechanism of osmotic-stress adaptation is the intracellular accumulation of organic solutes (osmolytes). We investigated the mechanism of osmotic adaptation in the diazotrophic bacteria Azotobacter chroococcum, Azospirillum brasilense, and Klebsiella pneumoniae, which are adversely affected by high osmotic strength (i.e., soil salinity and/or drought). We used natural-abundance C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to identify all the osmolytes accumulating in these strains during osmotic stress generated by 0.5 M NaCl. Evidence is presented for the accumulation of trehalose and glutamate in Azotobacter chroococcum ZSM4, proline and glutamate in Azospirillum brasilense SHS6, and trehalose and proline in K. pneumoniae. Glycine betaine was accumulated in all strains grown in culture media containing yeast extract as the sole nitrogen source. Alternative nitrogen sources (e.g., NH(4)Cl or casamino acids) in the culture medium did not result in measurable glycine betaine accumulation. We suggest that the mechanism of osmotic adaptation in these organisms entails the accumulation of osmolytes in hyperosmotically stressed cells resulting from either enhanced uptake from the medium (of glycine betaine, proline, and glutamate) or increased net biosynthesis (of trehalose, proline, and glutamate) or both. The preferred osmolyte in Azotobacter chroococcum ZSM4 shifted from glutamate to trehalose as a consequence of a prolonged osmotic stress. Also, the dominant osmolyte in Azospirillum brasilense SHS6 shifted from glutamate to proline accumulation as the osmotic strength of the medium increased.


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