We investigated the ability of Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, an obligate anaerobe from human colonic microflora, to grow in a carbohydrate-limited continuous culture at generation times ranging from 3.5 to 28 h per division. Four carbohydrates were tested: glucose, N-acetylglucosamine, glucuronic acid, and glucosamine. At a generation time of 3.5 h per division, the growth yields for bacteria growing on glucose, N-acetylglucosamine, and glucuronic acid were 76, 68, and 50 g of cells (dry weight) per mol of substrate, respectively. Growth yields at 28 h per division were 61, 52, and 37 g/mol of substrate, respectively. When glucosamine was the carbohydrate source, a stable population of bacteria was attainable only at generation times longer than 12 h per division. Growth yields at 15 and 32 h per division were 11 and 33 g/mol of substrate, respectively. There was no significant variation with increasing generation times in the specific activities of selected glycolytic enzymes, of disaccharidases such as α- and β-glucosidases and α- and β-galactosidases, or of the polysaccharidase chondroitin sulfate lyase. By contrast, the pattern of fermentation products varied with both the generation time and the carbon source. At a generation time of 3.5 h per division, the main products from the fermentation of glucose were acetate and succinate, with a trace of propionate. At 28 h per division, propionate concentrations were higher and succinate concentrations were lower than at 3.5 h per division. The products from the fermentation of glucosamine were the same as those from glucose fermentation. However, when N-acetylglucosamine was fermented, the concentration of acetate was much higher at all generation times than when glucose was the carbon source. When glucuronic acid was the carbon source, acetate was the main fermentation product, and only traces of propionate and succinate were detected. Another characteristic that varied with the growth rate was the ability of B. thetaiotaomicron to produce the inducible enzyme α-glucosidase when exposed to maltose. The ability of the organism to produce this enzyme declined with increasing generation times
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