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Knowledge on long-term preservation of micro-organisms is limited and research in the field is scarce despite its importance for microbial biodiversity and biotechnological innovation. Preservation of fastidious organisms such as methane-oxidizing bacteria (MOB) has proven difficult. Most MOB do not survive lyophilization and only some can be cryopreserved successfully for short periods. A large-scale study was designed for a diverse set of MOB applying fifteen cryopreservation or lyophilization conditions. After three, six and twelve months of preservation, the viability (via live-dead flow cytometry) and culturability (via most-probable number analysis and plating) of the cells were assessed. All strains could be cryopreserved without a significant loss in culturability using 1% trehalose in 10-fold diluted TSB (TT) as preservation medium and 5% DMSO as cryoprotectant. Several other cryopreservation and lyophilization conditions, all of which involved the use of TT medium, also allowed successful preservation but showed a considerable loss in culturability. We demonstrate here that most of these non-culturables survived preservation according to viability assessment indicating that preservation induces a viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state in a significant fraction of cells. Since this state is reversible, these findings have major implications shifting the emphasis from survival to revival of cells in a preservation protocol. We showed that MOB cells could be significantly resuscitated from the VBNC state using the TT preservation medium.


Sven Hoefman, Koenraad Van Hoorde, Nico Boon, Peter Vandamme, Paul De Vos, Kim Heylen. Survival or revival: long-term preservation induces a reversible viable but non-culturable state in methane-oxidizing bacteria. PloS one. 2012;7(4):e34196

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PMID: 22539945

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