Microbial metabolism

In order to grow, any living organism needs a supply of nutrients that will feature as, or go on to form, the building blocks from which that organism is made. These nutrients must also provide the energy that will be needed by the organism to perform the functions of accumulating and assimilating those nutrients, to facilitate moving around, etc.

The microbial kingdom comprises a huge diversity of organisms that are quite different in their nutritional demands. Some organisms (phototrophs) can grow using light as a source of energy and carbon dioxide as a source of carbon, the latter being the key element in organic systems. Others can get their energy solely from the oxidation of inorganic materials (lithotrophs).

All of the organisms considered in this book are chemotrophs, insofar as their energy is obtained by the oxidation of chemical species. Furthermore, unlike the autotrophs, which can obtain all (or nearly all) their carbon from carbon dioxide, the organisms that are at the heart of fermentation processes for making foodstuffs are organotrophs (or heterotrophs) in that they oxidise organic molecules, of which the most common class is the sugars.

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