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Molecular Adaptations In Psychrophilic Bacteria: Potential For Biotechnological Applications.

N. Russell
Published 1998 · Biology, Medicine

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Bacteria which live in cold conditions are known as psychrophiles. Since so much of our planet is generally cold, i.e. below 5 degrees C, it is not surprising that they are very common amongst a wide variety of habitats. To enable them to survive and grow in cold environments, psychrophilic bacteria have evolved a complex range of adaptations to all of their cellular components, including their membranes, energy-generating systems, protein synthesis machinery, biodegradative enzymes and the components responsible for nutrient uptake. Whilst such a systems approach to the topic has its advantages, all of the changes can be described in terms of adaptive alterations in the proteins and lipids of the bacterial cell. The present review adopts the latter approach and, following a brief consideration of the definition of psychrophiles and description of their habitats, focuses on those adaptive changes in proteins and lipids, especially those which are either currently being explored for their biotechnological potential or might be so in the future. Such applications for proteins range from the use of cold-active enzymes in the detergent and food industries, in specific biotransformations and environmental bioremediations, to specialised uses in contact lens cleaning fluids and reducing the lactose content of milk; ice-nucleating proteins have potential uses in the manufacture of ice cream or artificial snow; for lipids, the uses include dietary supplements in the form of polyunsaturated fatty acids from some Antarctic marine psychrophiles.

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