Process inhomogeneity leads to rapid side product turnover in cultivation of Corynebacterium glutamicum
Background: Corynebacterium glutamicum has large scale industrial applications in the production of amino acids and the potential to serve as a platform organism for new products. This means the demand for industrial process development is likely to increase. However, large scale cultivation conditions differ from laboratory bioreactors, mostly due to the formation of concentration gradients at the industrial scale. This leads to an oscillating supply of oxygen and nutrients for microorganisms with uncertain impact on metabolism. Scale-down bioreactors can be applied to study robustness and physiological reactions to oscillating conditions at a laboratory scale. Results: In this study, C. glutamicum ATCC13032 was cultivated by glucose limited fed-batch cultivation in a two-compartment bioreactor consisting of an aerobic stirred tank and a connected non-aerated plug flow reactor with optional feeding. Continuous flow through both compartments generated oscillating profiles with estimated residence times of 45 and 87 seconds in the non-aerated plug flow compartment. Oscillation of oxygen supply conditions at substrate excess and oscillation of both substrate and dissolved oxygen concentration were compared to homogeneous reference cultivations. The dynamic metabolic response of cells within the anaerobic plug flow compartment was monitored throughout the processes, detecting high turnover of substrate into metabolic side products and acidification within oxygen depleted zones. It was shown that anaerobic secretion of lactate into the extracellular culture broth, with subsequent reabsorption in the aerobic glucose-limited environment, leads to mixed-substrate growth in fed-batch processes. Apart from this, the oscillations had only a minor impact on growth and intracellular metabolite characteristics. Conclusions: Carbon metabolism of C. glutamicum changes at oscillating oxygen supply conditions, leading to a futile cycle over extracellular side products and back into oxidative pathways. This phenomenon facilitates a dynamic and flexible shift of oxygen uptake at inhomogeneous process conditions. There is no loss of process characteristics at oscillation times in the minute range, which emphasizes the robustness of C. glutamicum in comparison to other industrial microorganisms. Therefore, the metabolic phenotype of C. glutamicum seems to be particularly well-suited for cultivation at inhomogeneous process conditions for large-scale fed-batch application, which is in good accordance with the respective industrial experiences.
Published in: Microbial Cell Factories, 10.1186/1475-2859-13-6, BioMed Central