• Open Access

Adaptation of anaerobically grown Thauera aromatica, Geobacter sulfurreducens and Desulfococcus multivorans to organic solvents on the level of membrane fatty acid composition


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The effect of different solvents and pollutants on the cellular fatty acid composition of three bacterial strains: Thauera aromatica, Geobacter sulfurreducens and Desulfococcus multivorans, representatives of diverse predominant anaerobic metabolisms was investigated. As the prevailing adaptive mechanism in cells of T. aromatica and G. sulfurreducens whose cellular fatty acids patterns were dominated by palmitic acid (C16:0) and palmitoleic acid (C16:1cis), the cells reacted by an increase in the degree of saturation of their membrane fatty acids when grown in the presence of sublethal concentrations of the chemicals. Next to palmitic acid C16:0, the fatty acid pattern of D. multivorans was dominated by anteiso-branched fatty acids which are characteristic for several sulfate-reducing bacteria. The cells responded to the solvents with an increase in the ratio of straight-chain saturated (C14:0, C16:0, C18:0) to anteiso-branched fatty acids (C15:0anteiso, C17:0anteiso, C17:1anteisoΔ9cis). The results show that anaerobic bacteria react with similar mechanisms like aerobic bacteria in order to adapt their membrane to toxic organic solvents. The observed adaptive modifications on the level of membrane fatty acid composition can only be carried out with de novo synthesis of the fatty acids which is strictly related to cell growth. As the growth rates of anaerobic bacteria are generally much lower than in the so far investigated aerobic bacteria, this adaptive response needs more time in anaerobic bacteria. This might be one explanation for the previously observed higher sensitivity of anaerobic bacteria when compared with aerobic ones.