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Keywords:

  • psychroactive;
  • growth kinetics;
  • stoichiometry;
  • maintenance;
  • solid frozen media;
  • antifreeze

Abstract

We developed a procedure to culture microorganisms below freezing point on solid media (cellulose powder or plastic film) with ethanol as the sole carbon source without using artificial antifreezes. Enrichment from soil and permafrost obtained on such frozen solid media contained mainly fungi, and further purification resulted in isolation of basidiomycetous yeasts of the genera Mrakia and Leucosporidium as well as ascomycetous fungi of the genus Geomyces. Contrary to solid frozen media, the enrichment of liquid nutrient solutions at 0°C or supercooled solutions stabilized by glycerol at −1 to −5°C led to the isolation of bacteria representing the genera Polaromonas, Pseudomonas and Arthrobacter. The growth of fungi on ethanol–microcrystalline cellulose media at −8°C was exponential with generation times of 4.6–34 days, while bacteria displayed a linear or progressively declining curvilinear dynamic. At −17 to −0°C the growth of isolates and entire soil community on 14C-ethanol was continuous and characterized by yields of 0.27–0.52 g cell C (g of C-substrate)−1, similar to growth above the freezing point. The ‘state of maintenance,’ implying measurable catabolic activity of non-growing cells, was not confirmed. Below −18 to −35°C, the isolated organisms were able to grow only transiently for 3 weeks after cooling with measurable respiratory and biosynthetic (14CO2 uptake) activity. Then metabolic activity declined to zero, and microorganisms entered a state of reversible dormancy.