The effects of nitrogen starvation on the anaerobic physiology of were studied in cells cultivated in a bioreactor. The composition of the mineral medium was designed such that the nitrogen source became depleted while there was still ample glucose left in the medium. The culture was characterized by acoustic gas analysis, flow injection analysis and HPLC analysis of extracellular substrates and metabolites. During the cultivation, the macromolecular composition of the cells was analysed with respect to the cellular content of RNA, protein, trehalose and glycogen. During exponential growth under anaerobic conditions, the maximum specific growth rate (μ) of CBS 8066 (0.46 h) was identical to the μ determined under aerobic conditions. Depletion of ammonium in the medium led to an abrupt decrease in the flux through glycolysis. Subsequently, a continuous decrease in the carbon dioxide evolution rate, caused by catabolite inactivation of the hexose-transport system, was observed. The apparent half-life of the transport system under nitrogen starvation was 13 h. During the exponential growth phase, the cellular content of RNA and protein was 15% (w/w) and 60% (w/w), respectively. At the end of the cultivation where the cells had been starved of nitrogen for 18 h, the cellular content of RNA and protein had decreased to 4% (w/w) and 22% (w/w), respectively. The intracellular carbohydrate content increased dramatically as trehalose and glycogen accumulated to final concentrations of 7% (w/w) and 25% (w/w), respectively. Glycerol formation during nitrogen starvation was higher than that accounted for by the formation of organic acids, suggesting a protein turnover of approximately 6% h. The growth energetics of CBS 8066 also changed as a result of nitrogen starvation, and was observed to increase from 80 mmol g- during the exponential growth phase to more than 130 mmol g towards the end of the cultivation. The presented results illustrate the effect of nitrogen starvation on glycerol formation, protein turnover, catabolite inactivation of the sugar-transport system, the cellular composition, the cell cycle and growth energetics.


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