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Int J Food Microbiol. 2013 Jan 1;160(3):360-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2012.11.012. Epub 2012 Nov 20.

Changes of ultrastructure and stress tolerance of Vibrio parahaemolyticus upon entering viable but nonculturable state.

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Department of Microbiology, Soochow University, Taipei, Taiwan 111, Republic of China.


This study examined the change of ultrastructure and stress tolerance of the marine foodborne pathogen, Vibrio parahaemolyticus 1137, when incubated under viable but nonculturable (VBNC) state induction conditions for different time intervals. The rod-shaped V. parahaemolyticus cells in the exponential phase became coccoid cells in the VBNC state, with aberrantly shaped cells formed in the initial stage. In the aberrantly shaped cells, the cell wall was loosened, flexible and allowed the cell to bulge, and the formation of new and thin cell wall or the expansion of cell wall was also discerned primarily at the polar position, enclosing an empty cellular space. The thickness of the cell wall increased with the VBNC induction time, and was increased in cultures that were removed from the induction conditions and whose temperature was upshifted to 25°C for 1 or 2days. The incubation of V. parahaemolyticus under the VBNC induction conditions significantly enhanced its tolerance to heat, H(2)O(2) and low salinity, but sensitized it to bile salts. Tolerance to heat, bile salts and low salinity was significantly higher in the temperature upshifted cultures than in the corresponding unheated cultures, and the heated cultures were also more susceptible to H(2)O(2). The V. parahaemolyticus cultures that were incubated in the VBNC state induction conditions and the corresponding temperature-upshifted cultures exhibited unique changes in ultrastructure and tolerance to various stresses, unlike the nutrient-starved cells.

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