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Microbes Environ. 2012;27(4):356-66. Epub 2012 Oct 10.

Are uncultivated bacteria really uncultivable?

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Graduate School of Agriculture, Hokkaido University, N9 W9, Kita-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060–8589, Japan.


Many strategies have been used to increase the number of bacterial cells that can be grown from environmental samples but cultivation efficiency remains a challenge for microbial ecologists. The difficulty of cultivating a fraction of bacteria in environmental samples can be classified into two non-exclusive categories. Bacterial taxa with no cultivated representatives for which appropriate laboratory conditions necessary for growth are yet to be identified. The other class is cells in a non-dividing state (also known as dormant or viable but not culturable cells) that require the removal or addition of certain factors to re-initiate growth. A number of strategies, from simple to high throughput techniques, are reviewed that have been used to increase the cultivation efficiency of environmental samples. Some of the underlying mechanisms that contribute to the success of these cultivation strategies are described. Overall this review emphasizes the need of researchers to first understand the factors that are hindering cultivation to identify the best strategies to improve cultivation efficiency.

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