National Research Council of Canada. NRC Biotechnology Research Institute
We examined physiological adaptations which allow the psychrotroph Rhodococcus sp. strain Q15 to assimilate alkanes at a low temperature (alkanes are contaminants which are generally insoluble and/or solid at low temperatures). During growth at 5°C on hexadecane or diesel fuel, strain Q15 produced a cell surface-associated biosurfactant(s) and, compared to glucose-acetate-grown cells, exhibited increased cell surface hydrophobicity. A transmission electron microscopy examination of strain Q15 grown at 5°C revealed the presence of intracellular electron-transparent inclusions and ﬂocs of cells connected by an extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) when cells were grown on a hydrocarbon and morphological differences between the EPS of glucoseacetate-grown and diesel fuel-grown cells. A lectin binding analysis performed by using confocal scanning laser microscopy (CSLM) showed that the EPS contained a complex mixture of glycoconjugates, depending on both the growth temperature and the carbon source. Two glycoconjugates [b-D-Gal-(1-3)-D-GlcNAc and a-L-fucose] were detected only on the surfaces of cells grown on diesel fuel at 5°C. Using scanning electron microscopy, we observed strain Q15 cells on the surfaces of octacosane crystals, and using CSLM, we observed strain Q15 cells covering the surfaces of diesel fuel microdroplets; these ﬁndings indicate that this organism assimilates both solid and liquid alkane substrates at a low temperature by adhering to the alkane phase. Membrane fatty acid analysis demonstrated that strain Q15 adapted to growth at a low temperature by decreasing the degree of saturation of membrane lipid fatty acids, but it did so to a lesser extent when it was grown on hydrocarbons at 5°C; these ﬁndings suggest that strain Q15 modulates membrane ﬂuidity in response to the counteracting inﬂuences of low temperature and hydrocarbon toxicity.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology65, no. 7 (July 1999): 2961–2968.