Hydrodynamics, Fungal Physiology, and Morphology

  • L. Serrano-Carreón
  • E. Galindo
  • J. A. Rocha-Valadéz
  • A. Holguín-Salas
  • G. Corkidi
Part of the Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology book series (ABE, volume 149)



Filamentous cultures, such as fungi and actinomycetes, contribute substantially to the pharmaceutical industry and to enzyme production, with an annual market of about 6 billion dollars. In mechanically stirred reactors, most frequently used in fermentation industry, microbial growth and metabolite productivity depend on complex interactions between hydrodynamics, oxygen transfer, and mycelial morphology. The dissipation of energy through mechanically stirring devices, either flasks or tanks, impacts both microbial growth through shearing forces on the cells and the transfer of mass and energy, improving the contact between phases (i.e., air bubbles and microorganisms) but also causing damage to the cells at high energy dissipation rates. Mechanical-induced signaling in the cells triggers the molecular responses to shear stress; however, the complete mechanism is not known. Volumetric power input and, more importantly, the energy dissipation/circulation function are the main parameters determining mycelial size, a phenomenon that can be explained by the interaction of mycelial aggregates and Kolmogorov eddies. The use of microparticles in fungal cultures is also a strategy to increase process productivity and reproducibility by controlling fungal morphology. In order to rigorously study the effects of hydrodynamics on the physiology of fungal microorganisms, it is necessary to rule out the possible associated effects of dissolved oxygen, something which has been reported scarcely. At the other hand, the processes of phase dispersion (including the suspended solid that is the filamentous biomass) are crucial in order to get an integral knowledge about biological and physicochemical interactions within the bioreactor. Digital image analysis is a powerful tool for getting relevant information in order to establish the mechanisms of mass transfer as well as to evaluate the viability of the mycelia. This review focuses on (a) the main characteristics of the two most common morphologies exhibited by filamentous microorganisms; (b) how hydrodynamic conditions affect morphology and physiology in filamentous cultures; and (c) techniques using digital image analysis to characterize the viability of filamentous microorganisms and mass transfer in multiphase dispersions. Representative case studies of fungi (Trichoderma harzianum and Pleurotus ostreatus) exhibiting different typical morphologies (disperse mycelia and pellets) are discussed.

Graphical Abstract


Hydrodynamics Image analysis Mass transfer Morphology Physiology 

Abbreviations and Symbols

\( C_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \)

Concentration of dissolved oxygen in the liquid (kg O2 m−3)


Sauter mean diameter (μm)


Diameter of the impeller (m)


Critical diameter (m)


Diffusion diameter (m2 s−1)


Equilibrium diameter (μm)


Hyphal gradient in the pellet periphery (% μm−1)


Size of the drops/bubbles (μm)

\( D_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \)

Molecular diffusion coefficient (m2 s−1)


Energy dissipation/circulation function (kW m−3 s−1)


Gaseous flow (–)


Volume unit


Constant that depends on the geometry of the impeller (–)


Number of volumes sampled (–)


Volumetric oxygen transfer coefficient (h−1)


Hyphal length (μm)


Stirring speed (s−1)


Number of drops/bubbles per volume i


Power supplied (kW)


Porosity of the pellet (–)


Volume power drawn (kW m−3)

\( q_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \)

Specific rate of oxygen consumption (kg O2 kg−1 s−1)


Aggregate density (kg m−3)

\( R_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \)

Rate of oxygen consumption per unit volume (kg O2 m−3 s−1)


Circulation time (s)


Volume of liquid (m3)

Greek Letters


Size of Kolmogorov microscale (μm)


Local energy supplied (W kg−1)


Viscosity (Pa s)





Adenosine triphosphate


Colony-forming units


Deoxyribonucleic acid


Fluorescein diacetate


Green fluorescent protein


Ribonucleic acid


Reciprocating plate bioreactor


Radians per minute (stirring speed)


Volume of gas per volume of liquid per minute



DGAPA-UNAM (IT 201014 & IN 201813) and CONACyT (240438) for financial support.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Ingeniería Celular y Biocatálisis, Instituto de BiotecnologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCuernavacaMéxico

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