A survey of buoyant density of microorganisms in pure cultures and natural samples.

R. Guerrero, C. Pedrós-Alió, T. M. Schmidt, J. Mas

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    Values of buoyant density of microorganisms reported in literature are widely divergent because of techniques used. Many of these involve centrifugation in density gradients formed by substances with high osmolarity which dehydrate the cells. In order to better understand the ranges of variation of density of microbial cells several approaches were taken. Firstly, samples from several natural aquatic habitats were taken and the densities of the microorganisms present determined. Secondly, experiments were performed with selected microorganisms to maximize density changes by forcing them to accumulate intracytoplasmic inclusions of dense materials or to loose their capsules. Finally, the relevant literature was reviewed. It could be demonstrated that most microorganisms have a density around 1.080 pg microns-3 when measured in low osmolarity media such as Percoll. However, many species are able to modify their density by as much as 7% (for instance, from 1.097 to 1.022 pg microns-3 in Thiocapsa roseopersicina, and similar variations in other bacteria), by incorporating substances into inclusions (sulfur, carbon, phosphorous storage materials, etc.), or by making capsules and/or gas vesicles. The relevance of buoyant density determinations for several aspects of microbial ecology and physiology is discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)53-65
    JournalMicrobiologia SEM
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1985


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