The central challenge for extremely alkaliphilic Bacillus species is the need to establish and sustain a cytoplasmic pH that is over two units lower than the highly alkaline medium. Its centrality is suggested by the strong correlation between the growth rate in the upper range of pH for growth, i.e., at values above pH 10.5, and the cytoplasmic pH. The diminishing growth rate at extremely high pH values correlates better with the rise in cytoplasmic pH than with other energetic parameters. There are also general adaptations of alkaliphiles that are crucial prerequisites for pH homeostasis as well as other cell functions, i.e., the reduced basic amino acid content of proteins or segments thereof that are exposed to the medium, and there are other challenges of alkaliphily that emerge from solution of the cytoplasmic pH problem, i.e., reduction of the chemiosmotic driving force. For cells growing on glucose, strong evidence exists for the importance of acidic cell wall components, teichuronic acid and teichuronopeptides, in alkaliphily. These wall macromolecules may provide a passive barrier to ion flux. For cells growing on fermentable carbon sources, this and other passive mechanisms may have a particularly substantial role, but for cells growing on both fermentable and nonfermentable substrates, an active Na+-dependent cycle is apparently required for alkaliphily and the alkaliphile's remarkable capacity for pH homeostasis. The active cycle involves primary establishment of an electrochemical gradient via proton extrusion, a secondary electrogenic Na+/H+ antiport to achieve net acidification of the cytoplasm relative to the outside pH, and mechanisms for Na+ re-entry. Recent work in several laboratories on the critical antiporters involved in this cycle has begun to clarify the number and characteristics of the porters that support active mechanisms of pH homeostasis.
- Buffering capacity
- pH homeostasis