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Annu Rev Microbiol. 2017 Sep 8;71:711-730. doi: 10.1146/annurev-micro-090816-093449. Epub 2017 Jul 21.

Present and Future of Culturing Bacteria.

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Leibniz-Institute DSMZ-German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany; email:
German Center for Infection Research, Partner Site Hannover-Braunschweig, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany.


The cultivation of bacteria is highly biased toward a few phylogenetic groups. Many of the currently underexplored bacterial lineages likely have novel biosynthetic pathways and unknown biochemical features. New cultivation concepts have been developed based on an improved understanding of the ecology of previously not-cultured bacteria. Particularly successful were improved media that mimic the natural types and concentrations of substrates and nutrients, high-throughput cultivation techniques, and approaches that exploit biofilm formation and bacterial interactions. Metagenomics and single-cell genomics can reveal unknown metabolic features of not-yet-cultured bacteria and, if complemented by culture-independent physiological analyses, will help to target functional novelty more efficiently. However, numerous novel types of bacteria that were initially enriched subsequently escaped isolation. Future cultivation work will therefore need to focus on improved subcultivation, purification, and preservation techniques to recover and utilize a larger fraction of microbial diversity.


bacterial cultures; cultivation; culture collections; uncultivable; uncultured

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