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J Bacteriol. 1975 May;122(2):575-84.

Enzymatic adaptation by bacteria under pressure.


A study of enzymic adaptation under hydrostatic pressure by moderately barotolerant bacteria that can grow at pressure up to about 500 atm revealed that some adaptive processes are relatively insensitive to pressure, whereas others are sufficiently barosensitive to compromise survival capacity in situations requiring adaptation to new substrates under pressure. Examples of the former include adaptation of Escherichia coli to arabinose catabolism for growth and adaptation of Streptococcus faecalis to catabolism of lactose, ribose, or maltose. Examples of the latter include derepression of the lac operon in Escherichia coli and induction of penicillinase synthesis by Bacillus licheniformis. For both these barosensitive systems, pressure had little effect on enzyme levels in constitutive strains or in bacteria that had previously been induced at 1 atm. Moreover, it had no detectable effect on penicillinase secretion. However, pressures of 300 to 400 atm were found to reduce markedly rates and extents of enzyme synthesis by bacteria undergoing derepression or adaptation. This inhibitory effect of pressure was reflected in greater barosensitivity with extended lag and slower growth of initially unadapted Escherichia coli cells inoculated into minimal medium with lactose as sole source of carbon and fuel, and by major reductions in the minimal inhibitory concentrations of penicillin G for unadapted B. licheniformis cells inoculated into complex, antibiotic-containing media. Cyclic adenosine 5'-monophosphate did not reverse pressure inhibition of derepression of the lac operon, and catabolite repression was complete under pressure. However, derepression of the lac operon was more sensitive to pressure at low concentrations of inducer than at high concentrations. Apparent volume changes for derepression were 94 and 60 ml/mol at inducer concentrations of about 0.5 and 5 mM, respectively. Pressure was found not to be inhibitory for uptake of beta-galactosides; in fact, it was somewhat stimulatory. Therefore, results were interpreted in terms of inducer binding and subsequent conversion of an operator-inducer-repressor complex to inactive repressor and operator. Both reactions appeared to result in an increase in volume, the former more so than the latter. We found also that 200 atm was actually stimulatory for growth of Escherichia coli in minimal media, and the bacterium was in a sense barophilic.

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