Reliance on pure cultures was introduced at the beginning of microbiology as a discipline and has remained significant although their adaptive properties are essentially dissimilar from those of mixed cultures and environmental populations. They are needed for (i) taxonomic identification; (ii) diagnostics of pathogens; (iii) virulence and pathogenicity studies; (iv) elucidation of metabolic properties; (v) testing sensitivity to antibiotics; (vi) full-length genome assembly; (vii) strain deposition in microbial collections; and (viii) description of new species with name validation. Depending on the specific task there are alternative claims for culture purity, i.e., when conventional criteria are satisfied or when looking deeper is necessary. Conventional proof (microscopic and plating controls) has a low resolution and depends on the observer’s personal judgement. Phenotypic criteria alone cannot prove culture purity and should be complemented with genomic criteria. We consider the possible use of DNA high-throughput culture sequencing data to define criteria for only one genospecies, axenic state detection panel and only one genome. The second and third of these are preferable, although their resolving capacity (depth) is limited. Because minor contaminants may go undetected, even with deep sequencing, the reliably pure culture would be a clonal culture launched from a single cell or trichome (multicellular bacterium). Although this type of culture is associated with technical difficulties and cannot be employed on a large scale (the corresponding inoculums may have low chances of growth when transferred to solid media), it is hoped that the high-throughput culturing methods introduced by ‘culturomics’ will overcome this obstacle.
Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology