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Cell Surface Measurements in Hydrocarbon and Carbohydrate Fermentations

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  • Metabolism
  • Growth
  • And Industrial Microbiology


Acinetobacter calcoaceticus was grown in 11-liter batch fermentations with hexadecane or sodium citrate as the sole source of carbon. Surface and interfacial tension measurements of the microbial broth indicated that surface-active compounds were being produced only during growth on the hydrocarbon substrate. Contact angle measurements of an aqueous drop on a smooth lawn of cells in a hexadecane bath indicated a highly hydrophobic surface of the cells in the initial stages of the hydrocarbon fermentation (120° contact angle). At this stage, the entire cell population was bound to the hydrocarbon-aqueous interface. The contact angle dropped rapidly to approximately 45° after 14 h into the fermentation. This coincided with a shift of the cell population to the aqueous phase. Thus, the cells demonstrated more hydrophilic characteristics in the later stages of the fermentation. Contact angles on cells grown on sodium citrate ranged from 18 to 24° throughout the fermentation. The cells appear to be highly hydrophilic during growth on a soluble substrate. From the contact angle and aqueous-hydrocarbon interfacial tension, the surface free energy of the cells was calculated along with the cell-aqueous and cell-hydrocarbon interfacial tension. The results of these measurements were useful in quantitatively evaluating the hydrophobic nature of the cell surface during growth on hydrocarbons and comparing it with the hydrophilic nature of the cell surface during growth on a soluble substrate.

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