Utilization of a range of carbohydrates for growth by the hyperthermophile Pyrococcus furiosus was investigated by examining the spectrum of glycosyl hydrolases produced by this microorganism and the thermal labilities of various saccharides. Previously, P. furiosus had been found to grow in batch cultures on several α-linked carbohydrates and cellobiose but not on glucose or other β-linked sugars. Although P. furiosus was not able to grow on any nonglucan carbohydrate or any form of cellulose in this study (growth on oat spelt arabinoxylan was attributed to glucan contamination of this substrate), significant growth at 98°C occurred on β-1,3- and β-1,3–β-1,4-linked glucans. Oligosaccharides generated by digestion with a recombinant laminarinase derived from P. furiosus were the compounds that were most effective in stimulating growth of the microorganism. In several cases, periodic addition of β-glucan substrates to fed-batch cultures limited adverse thermochemical modifications of the carbohydrates (i.e., Maillard reactions and caramelization) and led to significant increases (as much as two- to threefold) in the cell yields. While glucose had only a marginally positive effect on growth in batch culture, the final cell densities nearly tripled when glucose was added by the fed-batch procedure. Nonenzymatic browning reactions were found to be significant at 98°C for saccharides with degrees of polymerization (DP) ranging from 1 to 6; glucose was the most labile compound on a mass basis and the least labile compound on a molar basis. This suggests that for DP of 2 or greater protection of the nonreducing monosaccharide component may be a factor in substrate availability. For P. furiosus, carbohydrate utilization patterns were found to reflect the distribution of the glycosyl hydrolases which are known to be produced by this microorganism
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