During growth in the presence of fibers composed of cellulose or hemicellulose, various strains of the thermophilic soil bacterium Clostridium thermocellum and several newly isolated thermophilic anaerobic soil bacteria adhered to the fibers. Attachment occurred via a fibrous ruthenium red-straining material. C. thermocellum sporulated while attached to the fibers when the pH dropped below 6.4. It is postulated that the attachment is involved in cellulose breakdown and that C. thermocellum gains an advantage by remaining attached to its insoluble substrates when the environment is not suitable for rapid growth. The tendency to adhere to cellulose fibers was used in the purification of thermophilic cellulolytic anaerobes.
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