Background: Though butanol is considered as a potential biofuel, its toxicity toward microorganisms is the main bottleneck for the biological butanol production. Recently, butanol-tolerant bacteria have been proposed as alternative butanol production hosts overcoming the end product inhibition. One remaining key issue to be addressed is how physicochemical properties such as pH and temperature affect microbial butanol tolerance during cultivation and fermentation. Results: We investigated the pH effect on butanol tolerance of a high butanol-tolerant bacterium, Enterococcus faecalis strain CM4A. The strain grew over a broad pH range (pH 4.0 to 12.0) and preferred alkaline pH (pH 8.0 and 10.0) in the absence of butanol. However, in the presence of butanol, strain CM4A grew better under acidic and neutral pH conditions (pH 6.0 and 6.8). Membrane fatty acid analysis revealed that the cells exposed to butanol exhibited increased cyclopropane and saturated fatty acids, which contribute to butanol tolerance of the strain by decreasing membrane fluidity, more evidently at acidic and neutral pH than at alkaline pH. Meanwhile, the strain grown under alkaline pH without butanol increased short chain fatty acids, which is involved in increasing membrane fluidity for alkaline adaptation. Such a change was not observed in the cells grown under alkaline pH with butanol. These results suggested that strain CM4A simultaneously exposed to butanol and alkali stresses was not likely able to properly adjust membrane fluidity due to the opposite response to each stress and thereby showed low butanol tolerance under alkaline pH. Indeed, the cells exposed to butanol at alkaline pH showed an irregular shape with disrupted membrane structure under transmission electron microscopy observation, which also indicated the impact of butanol and alkali stresses on functioning of cellular membrane. Conclusion: The study clearly demonstrated the alkaline pH-induced increase of cell susceptibility to butanol in the tested strain. Our findings indicate the non-negligible impact of pH on microbial butanol tolerance, providing a new insight into efficient butanol production.
Kanno, M., Tamaki, H., Mitani, Y., Kimura, N., Hanada, S., & Kamagata, Y. (2015). PH-induced change in cell susceptibility to butanol in a high butanol-tolerant bacterium, Enterococcus faecalis strain CM4A. Biotechnology for Biofuels, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13068-015-0251-x