Microbial Cell Culture

Bacterial cell culture on agar plates

Microbial cell cultures are used in molecular biology for cloning and recombinant protein expression. They are also used in clinical applications to isolate, detect, and identify microbes that cause disease. Microbial culturing enables cell growth and division under controlled laboratory conditions. Bacteria and other microbes can be grown in liquid broth or solid nutrient agar culture media using aseptic techniques to prevent contamination.

Cloning and Recombinant Protein Expression

Bacterial cultures are used for recombinant protein expression, plasmid cloning and amplification, and bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) and cosmid cloning. Bacterial cells can be altered to uptake and incorporate exogenous genes and plasmids through transformation. Transformation of competent cells typically occurs through electroporation or heat shock of chemically-treated competent cells.

Transformed bacteria are then identified and selected based on acquired antibiotic resistance imparted by recombinant plasmid DNA or using “blue-white” screening to identify recombinant bacteria expressing β-galactosidase as a marker. Yeast can also be transformed using electroporation and other methods for yeast two-hybrid and reporter gene assays to study protein expression and protein interactions.

Cultivation for Microbial Isolation and Identification

Microbial cultures are medically important for the isolation, detection, and differentiation of bacteria and other microbes that cause infectious disease. Characterization and identification using cultivation methods rely on both microbial phenotype and genotype. Cells can be isolated through inoculation of a streak plate to produce pure colonies. Selective media are used to inhibit the growth of certain groups of microbes, allowing others to grow. Differential media contain compounds that enable microbes to be distinguished visually by colony appearance or changes in surrounding media resulting from differences in metabolic or hemolytic activity. These media aid in the identification of bacteria and other microbes through differentiation and elimination.

Related Technical Articles

Related Protocols

  • Technical Article on competent cells. Transformation is a process by which some bacteria take up foreign genetic material (naked DNA) from the environment.
  • The selection of plasmids in yeast is based on the use of auxotrophic mutant strains, which cannot grow without a specific medium component (an amino acid, purine, or pyrimidine)
  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has published the new EN ISO 22964:2017 standard, which specifies a horizontal method for the detection of Cronobacter spp. in food, animal feed and environmental samples.
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