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Abstract

Bacteria respond to pH changes in their environment via pH homeostasis to keep the intracellular pH as constant as possible within a small range. A change of the intracellular pH value influences e.g., the enzyme activity, protein stability, solubility of trace elements and the proton motive force. Here, the species Corynebacterium glutamicum has been chosen as a neutralophilic and moderately alkali-tolerant bacterium capable of maintaining an internal pH of 7.5 ± 0.5 in environments with an external pH between 5.5 and 9. In the recent years, the phenotypic response of C. glutamicum to pH changes has been systematically investigated at the bulk population level. A detailed understanding of the C. glutamicum cell responding to defined short-term pH perturbations/ pulses is missing. In this study, dynamic microfluidic single-cell cultivation (dMSCC) was applied to analyse the physiological growth response of C. glutamicum upon precise pH stress pulses at a single-cell level. Analysis of the growth behaviour at the colony level by dMSCC exposed to single pH stress pulses (pH = 4, 5, 10, 11) revealed a decrease in the viability with increasing stress duration. Colony regrowth was possible after increasing lag phases when stress durations were increased from 5 min to 9 h for all tested pH values. Furthermore, the single-cell analysis revealed heterogeneous regrowth of cells after pH stress, which can be distinguished into two distinct behaviours firstly, cells continue to grow without interruption after the pH stress, and secondly, some cells rest for several hours after the pH stress before they start to grow again after this lag phase. This study provides the first insights into the single-cell response to acidic and alkaline pH stress adaptation of C. glutamicum.