Kazuki Nosho, Koji Yasuhara, Yuto Ikehata, Tomohiro Mii, Taichiro Ishige, Shunsuke Yajima, Makoto Hidaka, Tetsuhiro Ogawa, and Haruhiko Masaki*


Most bacterial cells in nature exhibit extremely low colony-forming activity, despite showing various signs of viability, impeding the isolation and utilization of many bacterial resources. However, the general causes responsible for this state of low colony formation are largely unknown. Because liquid cultivation typically yields more bacterial cell cultures than traditional solid cultivation, we hypothesized that colony formation requires one or more specific gene functions that are dispensable or less important for growth in liquid media. To verify our hypothesis and reveal the genetic background limiting colony formation among bacteria in nature, we isolated Escherichia coli mutants that had decreased frequencies of colony formation but could grow in liquid medium from a temperature-sensitive mutant collection. Mutations were identified in fabB, which is essential for the synthesis of long unsaturated fatty acids. We then constructed a fabB deletion mutant in a wild-type background. Detailed behavioural analysis of the mutant revealed that under fatty acid-limited conditions, colony formation on solid media was more sensitively and seriously impaired than growth in liquid media. Furthermore, growth under partial inhibition of fatty acid synthesis with cerulenin or triclosan brought about similar phenotypes, not only in E. coli but also in Bacillus subtilis and Corynebacterium glutamicum. These results indicate that fatty acids have a critical importance in colony formation and that depletion of fatty acids in the environment partly accounts for the low frequency of bacterial colony formation.

Paper Information

: Microbiology
: 10.1099/mic.0.000673