Microbial response to environmental stresses: from fundamental mechanisms to practical applications

Microbial response to environmental stresses: from fundamental mechanisms to practical applications

Environmental stresses are usually active during the process of microbial fermentation and have significant influence on microbial physiology. Microorganisms have developed a series of strategies to resist environmental stresses. For instance, they maintain the integrity and fluidity of cell membranes by modulating their structure and composition, and the permeability and activities of transporters are adjusted to control nutrient transport and ion exchange. Certain transcription factors are activated to enhance gene expression, and specific signal transduction pathways are induced to adapt to environmental changes. Besides, microbial cells also have well-established repair mechanisms that protect their macromolecules against damages inflicted by environmental stresses. Oxidative, hyperosmotic, thermal, acid, and organic solvent stresses are significant in microbial fermentation. In this review, we summarize the modus operandi by which these stresses act on cellular components, as well as the corresponding resistance mechanisms developed by microorganisms. Then, we discuss the applications of these stress resistance mechanisms on the production of industrially important chemicals. Finally, we prospect the application of systems biology and synthetic biology in the identification of resistant mechanisms and improvement of metabolic robustness of microorganisms in environmental stresses.

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