Image_3_Dynamics of Pellet Fragmentation and Aggregation in Liquid-Grown Cultures of Streptomyces lividans.TIF

Streptomycetes are extensively used for the production of valuable products, including various antibiotics and industrial enzymes. The preferred way to grow these bacteria in industrial settings is in large-scale fermenters. Growth of streptomycetes under these conditions is characterized by the formation of complex mycelial particles, called pellets. While the process of pellet formation is well characterized, little is known about their disintegration. Here, we use a qualitative and quantitative approach to show that pellet fragmentation in Streptomyces lividans is initiated when cultures enter the stationary phase, which coincides with a remarkable change in pellet architecture. Unlike young pellets, aging pellets have a less dense appearance and are characterized by the appearance of filaments protruding from their outer edges. These morphological changes are accompanied by a dramatic increase in the number of mycelial fragments in the culture broth. In the presence of fresh nutrients, these fragments are able to aggregate with other small fragments, but not with disintegrating pellets, to form new mycelial particles. Altogether, our work indicates that fragmentation might represent an escape mechanism from the environmental stress caused by nutrient scarcity, with striking similarities to the disassembly of bacterial biofilms.