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Biochem J. 1972 Aug;128(5):1193-201.

The role of oxygen limitation in the formation of poly- -hydroxybutyrate during batch and continuous culture of Azotobacter beijerinckii.


Azotobacter beijerinckii was grown in ammonia-free glucose-mineral salts media in batch culture and in chemostat cultures limited by the supply of glucose, oxygen or molecular nitrogen. In batch culture poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate was formed towards the end of exponential growth and accumulated to about 74% of the cell dry weight. In chemostat cultures little poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate accumulated in organisms that were nitrogen-limited, but when oxygen limited a much increased yield of cells per mol of glucose was observed, and the organisms contained up to 50% of their dry weight of poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate. In carbon-limited cultures (D, the dilution rate,=0.035-0.240h(-1)), the growth yield ranged from 13.1 to 19.8g/mol of glucose and the poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate content did not exceed 3.0% of the dry weight. In oxygen-limited cultures (D=0.049-0.252h(-1)) the growth yield ranged from 48.4 to 70.1g/mol of glucose and the poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate content was between 19.6 and 44.6% of dry weight. In nitrogen-limited cultures (D=0.053-0.255h(-1)) the growth yield ranged from 7.45 to 19.9g/mol of glucose and the poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate content was less than 1.5% of dry weight. The sudden imposition of oxygen limitation on a nitrogen-limited chemostat culture produced a rapid increase in poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate content and cell yield. Determinations on chemostat cultures revealed that during oxygen-limited steady states (D=0.1h(-1)) the oxygen uptake decreased to 100mul h(-1) per mg dry wt. compared with 675 for a glucose-limited culture (D=0.1h(-1)). Nitrogen-limited cultures had CO(2) production values in situ ranging from 660 to 1055mul h(-1) per mg dry wt. at growth rates of 0.053-0.234h(-1) and carbon-limited cultures exhibited a variation of CO(2) production between 185 and 1328mul h(-1) per mg dry wt. at growth rates between 0.035 and 0.240h(-1). These findings are discussed in relation to poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate formation, growth efficiency and growth yield during growth on glucose. We suggest that poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate is produced in response to oxygen limitation and represents not only a store of carbon and energy but also an electron sink into which excess of reducing power can be channelled.

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