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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2007 Jan;73(5):1169-72. Epub 2006 Aug 30.

Growth of E. coli BL21 in minimal media with different gluconeogenic carbon sources and salt contents.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Wright State University, 256 BioSciences, 3640 Col. Glenn Hwy, Dayton, OH 45435, USA.

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  • Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2006 Dec;73(4):968.


Escherichia coli strain BL21 is commonly used as a host strain for protein expression and purification. For structural analysis, proteins are frequently isotopically labeled with deuterium (2H), 13C, or 15N by growing E. coli cultures in a medium containing the appropriate isotope. When large quantities of fully deuterated proteins are required, E. coli is often grown in minimal media with deuterated succinate or acetate as the carbon source because these are less expensive. Despite the widespread use of BL21, we found no data on the effect of different minimal media and carbon sources on BL21 growth. In this study, we assessed the growth behavior of E. coli BL21 in minimal media with different gluconeogenic carbon sources. Though BL21 grew reasonably well on glycerol and pyruvate, it had a prolonged lag-phase on succinate (20 h), acetate (10 h), and fumarate (20 h), attributed to the physiological adaptation of E. coli cells. Wild-type strain NCM3722 (K12) grew well on all the substrates. We also examined the growth of E. coli BL21 in minimal media that differed in their salt composition but not in their source of carbon. The commonly used M9 medium did not support the optimum growth of E. coli BL21 in minimal medium. The addition of ferrous sulphate to M9 medium (otherwise lacking it) increased the growth rate of E. coli cultures and significantly increased their cell density in the stationary phase.

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