Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Cell phenotype changes and oxidative stress response in Vibrio spp. induced into viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state

Prosdocimi, Erica M.; Arioli, Stefania; Mapelli, Francesca; Zeaiter, Zahraa; Fusi, Marco; Daffonchio, Daniele; Borin, Sara; Crotti, Elena


Erica M. Prosdocimi

Stefania Arioli

Francesca Mapelli

Zahraa Zeaiter

Marco Fusi

Daniele Daffonchio

Sara Borin

Elena Crotti


Purpose: Aquatic bacteria of the genus Vibrio include animal and human pathogens. The occurrence of Vibrio-related diseases has been associated with the current climate change-driven increase of sea surface temperature. Vibrio spp. can enter into the viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state, as a consequence of starvation in seawater at low temperatures. In such physiological state, Vibrio cells are no longer culturable on standard media agar plates but can resuscitate if incubated at 30 °C prior to plating, retaining virulence. Since limited information is available on regards to this topic, in this work, we characterized the phenotypic changes of four Vibrio spp. strains (one laboratory strain and three environmental isolates) in cold seawater microcosms, investigating the relationship between resuscitation and a hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress. Methods: Cell phenotypic changes and the effect of hydrogen peroxide and/or catalase addition to the medium were studied on VBNC and resuscitated cells by flow cytometry in microcosm experiments, paralleled by culturability experiments by plating. Results: The cells of all the Vibrio strains changed their phenotype upon the induction of the VBNC state resulting in cell dwarfing and decrease in DNA quantity, losing the ability to grow on solid media. These features were partially or totally reverted when the cells were treated for resuscitation. Hydrogen peroxide at concentrations as low as 0.007 mM prevented resuscitation and a prolonged exposure to hydrogen peroxide at concentrations far under those inhibiting the growth of log-phase cells permanently damaged VBNC cells, which could not be resuscitated. However, the potential of culturability of VBNC cells could be preserved, at least for a part of the population, by plating the cells in the presence of catalase. The study also showed that during the resuscitation process, the cells gradually increased their resistance to hydrogen peroxide. Conclusions: The timing and mode of induction of the VBNC state, as well as cell resuscitation and response to hydrogen peroxide, differed among Vibrio strains, indicating that induction and resuscitation from dormancy could vary in the context of species belonging to a single genus.


Prosdocimi, E. M., Arioli, S., Mapelli, F., Zeaiter, Z., Fusi, M., Daffonchio, D., Borin, S., & Crotti, E. (2023). Cell phenotype changes and oxidative stress response in Vibrio spp. induced into viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state. Annals of Microbiology, 73(1), Article 1.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 9, 2022
Online Publication Date Jan 4, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Jan 11, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 11, 2023
Journal Annals of Microbiology
Print ISSN 1590-4261
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 73
Issue 1
Article Number 1
Keywords Dormancy, Resuscitation, Culturability, Viability, Hydrogen peroxide, Catalase, Flow cytometry, Oxidative stress


Cell phenotype changes and oxidative stress response in Vibrio spp. induced into viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state (1.9 Mb)

Publisher Licence URL

Copyright Statement
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations