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Front Microbiol. 2013 Jul 9;4:183. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2013.00183. eCollection 2013.

Of energy and survival incognito: a relationship between viable but non-culturable cells formation and inorganic polyphosphate and formate metabolism in Campylobacter jejuni.

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Food Animal Health Research Program, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, The Ohio State University Wooster, OH, USA.


Campylobacter jejuni is a Gram-negative food-borne bacterium that can cause mild to serious diseases in humans. A variety of stress conditions including exposure to formic acid, a weak organic acid, can cause C. jejuni to form viable but non-culturable cells (VBNC), which was proposed as a potential survival mechanism. The inability to detect C. jejuni VBNC using standard culturing techniques may increase the risk of exposure to foods contaminated with this pathogen. However, little is known about the cellular mechanisms and triggers governing VBNC formation. Here, we discuss novel mechanisms that potentially affect VBNC formation in C. jejuni and emphasize the impact of formic acid on this process. Specifically, we highlight findings that show that impairing inorganic polyphosphate (poly-P) metabolism reduces the ability of C. jejuni to form VBNC in a medium containing formic acid. We also discuss the potential effect of poly-P and formate metabolism on energy homeostasis and cognate VBNC formation. The relationship between poly-P metabolism and VBNC formation under acid stress has only recently been identified and may represent a breakthrough in understanding this phenomenon and its impact on food safety.


Campylobacter jejuni; acid stress; energy,; formate dehydrogenase; formate metabolism; inorganic polyphosphate; polyphosphate kinase; viable but non-culturable cells

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