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A graph with pH on the X axis and growth rate on the Y axis. One bell shaped curve peaks at about pH 3 and drops down, reaching a growth rate of 0 at pH 1 and 5.5. This line is labeled acidophile. Another bell curve peaks at pH 7 and drops to 0 at pH 5.5 and 8.5. This is labeled neutrophile. The final curve peaks at pH 9.5 and drops to 0 at pH of 7.5 and 11.5. This is labeled alkaliphile.
The curves show the approximate pH ranges for the growth of the different classes of pH-specific prokaryotes. Each curve has an optimal pH and extreme pH values at which growth is much reduced. Most bacteria are neutrophiles and grow best at near-neutral pH (center curve). Acidophiles have optimal growth at pH values near 3 and alkaliphiles have optimal growth at pH values above 9.

At the other end of the spectrum are alkaliphile s, microorganisms that grow best at pH between 8.0 and 10.5. Vibrio cholerae , the pathogenic agent of cholera , grows best at the slightly basic pH of 8.0; it can survive pH values of 11.0 but is inactivated by the acid of the stomach. When it comes to survival at high pH, the bright pink archaean Natronobacterium , found in the soda lakes of the African Rift Valley, may hold the record at a pH of 10.5 ( [link] ). Extreme alkaliphiles have adapted to their harsh environment through evolutionary modification of lipid and protein structure and compensatory mechanisms to maintain the proton motive force in an alkaline environment. For example, the alkaliphile Bacillus firmus derives the energy for transport reactions and motility from a Na + ion gradient rather than a proton motive force. Many enzymes from alkaliphiles have a higher isoelectric point, due to an increase in the number of basic amino acids, than homologous enzymes from neutrophiles.

A photo of a red lake
View from space of Lake Natron in Tanzania. The pink color is due to the pigmentation of the extreme alkaliphilic and halophilic microbes that colonize the lake. (credit: NASA)

Survival at the low ph of the stomach

Peptic ulcers (or stomach ulcers ) are painful sores on the stomach lining. Until the 1980s, they were believed to be caused by spicy foods, stress, or a combination of both. Patients were typically advised to eat bland foods, take anti-acid medications, and avoid stress. These remedies were not particularly effective, and the condition often recurred. This all changed dramatically when the real cause of most peptic ulcers was discovered to be a slim, corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Helicobacter pylori . This organism was identified and isolated by Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, whose discovery earned them the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2005.

The ability of H. pylori to survive the low pH of the stomach would seem to suggest that it is an extreme acidophile. As it turns out, this is not the case. In fact, H. pylori is a neutrophile. So, how does it survive in the stomach? Remarkably, H. pylori creates a microenvironment in which the pH is nearly neutral. It achieves this by producing large amounts of the enzyme urease, which breaks down urea to form NH 4 + and CO 2 . The ammonium ion raises the pH of the immediate environment.

This metabolic capability of H. pylori is the basis of an accurate, noninvasive test for infection. The patient is given a solution of urea containing radioactively labeled carbon atoms. If H. pylori is present in the stomach, it will rapidly break down the urea, producing radioactive CO 2 that can be detected in the patient’s breath. Because peptic ulcers may lead to gastric cancer, patients who are determined to have H. pylori infections are treated with antibiotics.

  • What effect do extremes of pH have on proteins?
  • What pH-adaptive type of bacteria would most human pathogens be?

Key concepts and summary

  • Bacteria are generally neutrophiles . They grow best at neutral pH close to 7.0.
  • Acidophiles grow optimally at a pH near 3.0. Alkaliphiles are organisms that grow optimally between a pH of 8 and 10.5. Extreme acidophiles and alkaliphiles grow slowly or not at all near neutral pH.
  • Microorganisms grow best at their optimum growth pH . Growth occurs slowly or not at all below the minimum growth pH and above the maximum growth pH .

Fill in the blank

A bacterium that thrives in a soda lake where the average pH is 10.5 can be classified as a(n) ________.

alkaliphile

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Lactobacillus acidophilus grows best at pH 4.5. It is considered a(n) ________.

acidophile

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Short answer

Which macromolecule in the cell is most sensitive to changes in pH?

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Which metabolic process in the bacterial cell is particularly challenging at high pH?

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Questions & Answers

what is cell
Avi Reply
is unit of life
Kamaluddeen
Ok
mohamed
who is an industrial microbiologist
Cynthia Reply
I want to know the biochemical composition of bacteria
Josh Reply
It contains peptidoglcon, DNA nd RNA
Asiya
bacteriophage disadvantage
Momina Reply
disease due to __________ abnormalities are termed primary immunodeficiencies
Tayee Reply
Some primary immunodeficiencies are due to a defect of a single cellular or humoral component of the immune system.
Prince
Examples of primary immunodeficiencies include: chronic granulomatous disease, X-linked agammaglobulinemia, selective IgA deficiency etc
Prince
thank you
Nana
explain microbial mutation
Emerald
what is mutation
Cynthia Reply
alteration in genetic makeup
UDEME
Hi, I'm new here. I'm Bello Abdul Hakeem from Nigeria.
BELLO Reply
welcome on board
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Thanks brother I'm an undergraduate. I hope to study for MBBS.
BELLO
pls guys help me out
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what is limitation of plate
Linda
limitation of plate load test . there are some that should be considered while performing load test which are given below, this test is usually performed on relatively similar plate ,usually 1 or 2 square foot area the reason is that the plate of greater are the economically not feasible
yemi
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Shafiu
thanks shafiu
gambo
how to differentiate Gram positive from Gram negative bacteria?
Faheem
by the cell membrane
Tim
with gram staining which has 4 steps
Freedom
Mechanism of bacterial pathogenicity
rashida Reply
Toxicity
Ibrahim
write a short note on Algea
najaatu Reply
green minutes plants organisms that are produced in turf.
Prince
Algae is a kind of a photosynthetic organism, which is usually grown in the moist areas. These are usually the simple plants that grow near to the water bodies. It contains a kind of chlorophyll pigments that act as a primary coloring agent.
Avi
they are eukaryotic and most lived in fresh water. they are photosynthetic that's, they contain chlorophyll and store starch in discrete chloroplast.
Prince
are bacteria important to man
just Reply
yes, depending on the type of bacteria .eg the normal florals, the latic acid batteries etc are important to man
Lois
I mean latic acid bacterial
Lois
I don't understand this topic
Jane Reply
what topic is that
Rose
sahi kon hai bhosri ke
saurabh Reply
define metabolism of carbohydrates with example
Thavasi Reply
what is sterilization a
Sani
the process of keep equipment free from bacteria
shar
is it only bacteria?
Lois
no undesirable fungi and contamination also.
Khushbu
what is streak plate method
Offikwu
what is the biofilm
Dimingu
metabolism is the sum of all the biochemical reaction required for energy generation and use of that energy to synthesize cell materials from small molecules in environment.
Alex
boclenia
Pooja
what are granulocytes
Shawnitta Reply
e.coli
Sukhdeep
granulocytes are type of WBCs which contains granules in the cytoplasm
Owili
what is mutation
Cynthia
it is the interchange of genes from their normal sequence
Esther
is an heritable change of the base-pair sequence of genetic material
Elizabeth
suitable example for prokaryotes
Suvetha Reply
one of the possible early sources of energy was
Suvetha
uv radiation and lighting
Anisha
e coli is the example of prokaryotes
Sukhdeep
archaea too
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Source:  OpenStax, Microbiology. OpenStax CNX. Nov 01, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12087/1.4
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