Water and temperature relations of soil Actinobacteria

Andrew Stevenson, John E. Hallsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Actinobacteria perform essential functions within soils, and are dependent on available water to do so. We determined the water-activity (aw) limits for cell division of Streptomyces albidoflavus, Streptomyces rectiviolaceus, Micromonospora grisea and Micromonospora (JCM 3050) over a range of temperatures, using culture media supplemented with a biologically permissive solute (glycerol). Each species grew optimally at 0.998 aw (control; no added glycerol) and growth rates were near-optimal in the range 0.971–0.974 (1 M glycerol) at permissive temperatures. Each was capable of cell division at 0.916–0.924 aw (2 M glycerol), but only S. albidoflavus grew at 0.895 or 0.897 aw (3 M glycerol, at 30 and 37°C respectively). For S. albidoflavus, however, no growth occurred on media at ≤ 0.870 (4 M glycerol) during the 40-day assessment period, regardless of temperature, and a theoretical limit of 0.877 aw was derived by extrapolation of growth curves. This level of solute tolerance is high for non-halophilic bacteria, but is consistent with reported limits for the growth and metabolic activities of soil microbes. The limit, within the range 0.895–0.870 aw, is very much inferior to those for obligately halophilic bacteria and extremely halophilic or xerophilic fungi, and is inconsistent with earlier reports of cell division at 0.500 aw. These findings are discussed in relation to planetary protection policy for space exploration and the microbiology of arid soils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)744-55
Number of pages12
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014

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© 2014 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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