Historically many bacteria have been classified as obligate anaerobes. They have been construed as wholly intolerant of oxygen, a feature that was originally ascribed to their lack of superoxide dismutases and catalases. Clostridial species were regarded as classic examples. We now know that this view is quite wrong: enzymes that scavenge superoxide, hydrogen peroxide and even oxygen itself abound in anaerobes. In the current issue of Molecular Microbiology, Hillmann et al. demonstrate that full production of these proteins can allow Clostridium acetobutylicum to survive and even grow in oxygenated culture medium. Evidently, oxidative defences in anaerobes can be robust. In all likelihood, they are critical for the movement of bacteria through aerobic environments to new anaerobic habitats.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology