Four strains of Escherichia coli were examined for response to heat stress (60°C) as a function of physiological age and antecedent oxygen growth conditions. Exponential phase cells were more susceptible to heat than cells grown to the stationary phase. Anaerobically grown, exponential phase cells were more susceptible to thermal stress than were cells grown to a similar physiological state but under aerobic conditions. In the case of stationary phase cells, differences in response to heat stress as related to prior oxygen growth conditions were equivocal. Repair characteristics of thermally injured cells were also examined. Cells grown anaerobically prior to heat stress required 1.5 h longer than their aerobically grown counterparts to complete repair. These findings suggest that antecedent oxygen growth conditions influence the response of E. coli to thermal stress and perhaps, more generally, that persistence of environmentally stressed enteric microorganisms must be considered in relation to prior oxygen growth conditions in vivo.

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Author notes

1Scientific Paper No. 2162 of the West Virginia University Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.

2Present address: Advanced Biotechnologies Inc., 9108 Guilford Rd., Columbia, MD 21046.