Isolating "Uncultivable" Microorganisms in Pure Culture in a Simulated Natural Environment

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Science  10 May 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5570, pp. 1127-1129
DOI: 10.1126/science.1070633

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The majority (>99%) of microorganisms from the environment resist cultivation in the laboratory. Ribosomal RNA analysis suggests that uncultivated organisms are found in nearly every prokaryotic group, and several divisions have no known cultivable representatives. We designed a diffusion chamber that allowed the growth of previously uncultivated microorganisms in a simulated natural environment. Colonies of representative marine organisms were isolated in pure culture. These isolates did not grow on artificial media alone but formed colonies in the presence of other microorganisms. This observation may help explain the nature of microbial uncultivability.

  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: s.epstein{at}

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