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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2008 Nov;288(2):178-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6968.2008.01337.x. Epub 2008 Sep 16.

Characterization of Caulobacter crescentus response to low temperature and identification of genes involved in freezing resistance.

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Department of Microbiology, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.


Free-living bacteria must respond to a wide range of temperature changes, and have developed specific mechanisms to survive in extreme environments. In this work we describe a remarkable resistance of mesophilic bacterium Caulobacter crescentus to several cycles of freezing at -80 degrees C, which was able to grow at low temperatures. Exponentially growing cells and late stationary-phase cells presented higher freezing resistance at both -20 and -80 degrees C than early stationary-phase cells. Cryotolerance was observed when log-phase cultures grown at 30 degrees C were preincubated at 5, 15 or 20 degrees C before freezing at -20 degrees C. A transposon library was screened to identify mutants sensitive to freezing at -80 degrees C and three strains presenting <10% survival were isolated. Identification of genes disrupted in each mutant showed that they encoded an AddA family DNA helicase, a DEAD/DEAH box RNA helicase and a putative RND (resistance, nodulation, cell division) efflux system component. These strains showed longer generation times than wild-type cells when growing at 15 degrees C, with the RNA helicase mutant presenting a severe growth defect. These analyses suggest that the singular intrinsic resistance to freezing of C. crescentus is in fact a consequence of several independent traits, especially the maintenance of a proper degree of supercoiling of nucleic acids.

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