The Nature and Relevance of Solvent Stress in Microbes and Mechanisms of Tolerance

  • Mike Manefield
  • Matthew Lee
  • Joanna Koenig


Solvent stress in microbiology refers to exposure of microorganisms to chemical compounds with relatively low polarity. Environments in which solvent stress is intense are traditionally grouped with other extreme environments with hazardous temperatures, pressures, salinity, acidity and radiation. Extreme Environments with respect to solvents include natural oil or organohalide contaminated environments and industrial settings in which microbes are used to produce solvents or other compounds in dual phase reactor systems. Stress is typically thought to be exerted by interference with membrane function but the ability of solvents to interfere with protein structure is perhaps an underestimated target for solvent stress. It is a significant concern that selection for efflux pumps through exposure to solvents is likely to select for resistance to antimicrobials. Other solvent tolerance mechanisms include membrane adaptation and solvent biodegradation along with more generic strategies such as biofilm formation, motility and endospore formation. Whilst mechanisms of tolerance in aerobic bacteria have been extensively studied, less work has been done on anaerobic bacteria and archaea. An understanding of the nature of solvent stress and microbial strategies to adapt has relevance in natural and biotechnology settings.


Efflux Pump Solvent Tolerance Dimethyl Sulphide Solvent Stress Endospore Formation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



JK and ML were supported by Australian Research Council Linkage Project LP110200610. MM was supported by an August Wilhelm Scheer Visiting Professorship.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular SciencesUniversity of NSWSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Urban Water Systems Engineering, Technical University MunichGarchingGermany

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