Acidophillic Extremophile: Lactobacillus acidophilus
Imagine a harsh winter with winds roaring outside and the shutters banging fiercely against the side of the house. Now imagine walking along a dessert as the sun beats down from above, and the glare from the sand is almost unbearable. Humans have adapted to these types of environments through technology and simplicities. Yet a microorganism calls places like these “home”. These microbes are called extremophiles, prospering in extreme environments where humans can’t. Barren or poisonous environments that other organisms would perish in tend to be the extremophile’s hot spots (Rothschild, 2001). They reach their full potential within these environments. Without these environments, lifecycles like reproduction wouldn’t take place at all. Extremophiles are wide spread and well diverse microorganisms. Lactobacillus acidophilus is only one of the many microorganisms that exist under conditions inadaptable to other life forms.
Lactobacillus acidophilus was discovered by pediatrician, Ernst Moro. He researched gastrointestinal disorders that infected his patients which consisted mainly of infants because the mortality rate nearly exceeded 25%. He soon presented his first characterization of Latobacillus acidophilus and received permission to continue his work on the infantile intestines. It was soon after this, that he became the Head of a Children’s Hospital. He was famous and loved by the public for his discovery and his continuing acknowledgement and research of infant’s neurological development. With these honors he was promoted to Chair of Pediatrics, which marked the beginning of a blossoming period to how this information could be used in the future (Weirich, 2005). This discovery gave way to understanding these species abilities and the positive effects it has on humans and other existing mammals.
Acidophillic extremophiles exist as two types of broad categories: Archaea and Bacteria. Lactobacillus acidophilus, or largely classified as lactic acid, is known as a genus of bacteria able to produce lactic acid. Lactobacillus is a rod shaped bacteria that grows in the absence of oxygen. Lactic acid uses lactose to produce energy and use that energy to displace lactose through the cells membrane. This extremophile is able to grow in acidic conditions with a pH range from 1.0 to 5.0. These pH levels are relative to battery acid, lemon juice, vinegar, and acid rain. They are found within the mouth, intestines of the human body, and the vagina which gives them the ability to help maintain a healthy intestinal tract and aid in the process of digestion. They can also be found in dairy products that go through the process of fermentation, which increases preservation of food and increases palatability (Buttriss, 1997). Acidophiles, like Lactobacillus, are able to survive in acidic environments because they have evolved and developed mechanisms to maintain their intercellular pH at a constant level between 7.0 and 7.2 (Richlen, 2008). Lactobacilli have to regulate their pH to be able to survive in such conditions by changing their cell membrane. The cell membrane restricts the flow of protons into the cytoplasm. The protons enter into the cells at a slower rate while the protons within the cell exit at a quicker rate to maintain the balance between proton permeability. For this to happen, the membrane channel pores are slightly reduced in size. Not all systems are flawed meaning if the protons manage to infiltrate the cell; intracellular mechanisms help alleviate the damage done by releasing a cytoplasmic buffer that has basic amino acid sequences. Also, the inhabitance of DNA and protein repair genes are potential problems associated with pH homeostasis. Chaperones aid in a quick repair to this challenging problem (Baker-Austin, 2007). Besides the ability to maintain an internal pH, an interest that caught the attention of scientists was the enzymes that aid extremophiles...
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