With the aim of remaining viable, bacteria must deal with changes in environmental conditions, including increases in external osmolarity. While studies concerning bacterial response to this stress condition have focused on soil, marine and enteric species, this report is about Caulobacter crescentus, a species inhabiting freshwater oligotrophic habitats.
A genomic analysis reported in this study shows that most of the classical genes known to be involved in intracellular solute accumulation under osmotic adaptation are missing in C. crescentus. Consistent with this observation, growth assays revealed a restricted capability of the bacterium to propagate under hyperosmotic stress, and addition of the compatible solute glycine betaine did not improve bacterial resistance. A combination of transcriptomic and proteomic analyses indicated quite similar changes triggered by the presence of either salt or sucrose, including down-regulation of many housekeeping processes and up-regulation of functions related to environmental adaptation. Furthermore, a GC-MS analysis revealed some metabolites at slightly increased levels in stressed cells, but none of them corresponding to well-established compatible solutes.
Despite a clear response to hyperosmotic stress, it seems that the restricted capability of C. crescentus to tolerate this unfavorable condition is probably a consequence of the inability to accumulate intracellular solutes. This finding is consistent with the ecology of the bacterium, which inhabits aquatic environments with low nutrient concentration.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-015-0404-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.