Reference Work Entry

The Prokaryotes

pp 309-335

Syntrophism among Prokaryotes

  • Bernhard Schink
  • , Alfons J. M. Stams

Introduction: Concepts of Cooperation in Microbial Communities, Terminology

The study of pure cultures in the laboratory has provided an amazingly diverse diorama of metabolic capacities among microorganisms, and has established the basis for our understanding of key transformation processes in nature. Pure culture studies are also prerequisites for research in microbial biochemistry and molecular biology. However, desire to understand how microorganisms act in natural systems requires the realization that microorganisms don’t usually occur as pure cultures out there, but that every single cell has to cooperate or compete with other micro- or macroorganisms. The pure culture is, with some exceptions such as certain microbes in direct cooperation with higher organisms, a laboratory artifact. Information gained from the study of pure cultures can be transferred only with great caution to an understanding of the behavior of microbes in natural communities. Rather, a detailed analysis of th ...

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