Variances in cellular sedimentation behavior as an effective enrichment method of hydrocarbon-overproducing Micrococcus luteus strains

Angel Angelov, Maria Übelacker, Wolfgang Liebl*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background: Aliphatic hydrocarbons of microbial origin are highly interesting candidate biofuels because these molecules are identical or very similar to the main components of petroleum-based gasoline and diesel fuels. The high-GC Gram-positive bacterium Micrococcus luteus is capable of naturally synthesizing long-chain, iso- and anteiso-branched alkenes which are formed via the head-to-head condensation of fatty acid thioesters by a dedicated enzyme system. The present study describes the relation we observed between olefin production and cell buoyancy in Micrococcus luteus and the use of this phenotype to simply and efficiently separate cells from a mixture based on their hydrocarbon content. Methods: We generated M. luteus mutants producing different amounts of olefins and used them in mixing and sedimentation experiments, olefin content analysis by GC-MS and in equilibrium centrifugation in Percoll gradients. Results: We found well-detectable differences in the buoyant densities of the examined strains, which correlated with the amounts of hydrocarbons produced by the cells. We also demonstrate how our observations can be used to simply and efficiently fractionate cells based on their hydrocarbon content. Conclusions: In summary, we show that cultures of M. luteus cells sediment at distinct rates depending on the amounts of alkenes produced. Our results indicate that buoyant cell density is the primary cause for the observed differences in sedimentation behaviour. The simple separation strategy described here can be a valuable tool in various mutagenesis and enrichment protocols, aimed at generating and isolating strains with increased olefin productivity.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number288
    JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Oct 20 2018

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2018 The Author(s).


    • Bacterial hydrocarbons
    • Biofuels
    • Cell flocculation
    • Fatty acid-derived fuels
    • Microbial hydrocarbons
    • Micrococcus
    • Micrococcus luteus
    • Olefins
    • Screening

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Biotechnology
    • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
    • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
    • General Energy
    • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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