Molecular Biology & Biotech Notes

Microorganisms used for Biotechnological Processes

Written by MicroDok

Both prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms including plants, animals and microorganisms are used for biotechnological manipulations. Whole animals and plants are manipulated through genetic engineering to produce transgenic animals and plants respectively. In addition, bacteria and other eukaryotic cells have been genetically manipulated to produce non-microbial products such as human growth hormones, insulin, interferon, mammalian proteins and genes typical of which is insulin (hormone that regulates the blood sugar level) that can now be produced in large amounts through a genetically modified bacterium (Escherichia coli) or fungi (yeast). For the production of insulin in commercial quantities, the gene for human insulin is inserted into yeast or bacteria, from which large quantities of the human insulin are manufactured biotechnologically. Microorganisms used for biotechnological processes are in any of the following categories:

  • Archaea
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Algae
  • Viruses

Specific strains of any of the above microorganisms can be used for biotechnological applications. Finding the right strain of microorganism to use for a biotechnological process is something of a herculean task as not all strains of a particular organism can be employed or genetically manipulated to produce a desired product. Through biotechnological tools, the gene expression of a particular organism can be engineered and modified to start producing a product of commercial interest. But such organism must meet certain criteria for it to be qualified as a tool for biotechnological processes.  Some of the qualities sought for when choosing microorganisms for biotechnological processes may include any of the following:

  • Microorganisms with high growth rate that do not produce viscous culture broth are chosen.
  • The organism must be able to produce desired products.
  • The organism must be genetically stable.
  • It must be genetically amenable and be easily manipulated.
  • The organism must be able to degrade pollutants or convert them to environmentally-friendly compounds. This applies to environmental biotechnology.


Several reasons abound why microorganisms are often the organisms of choice in many biotechnological processes.

  • Microorganisms have a high growth rate.
  • They have simple nutrient requirement which are easily accessible.
  • Microorganisms possess a wide variety of potentially useful metabolic pathways and biochemical processes that can be manipulated for improved industrial applications.
  • They have simple genetic systems that can be altered through genetic engineering techniques.
  • Their systems are simple and their regulatory processes have been well documented.
  • Microorganisms are very amenable to genetic manipulations and they are cost-effective and easily sourced from the environment for industrial production.


As one of the world’s most research-intensive industry, biotechnology corporations are high-profit making enterprises that seek to increase their economic base while obtaining high returns from their investments. Research and development (R&D) spending in the biotechnology industries of most nations including the United States of America runs into billions of dollars. Recombinant human insulin for example was the first biotechnologically developed therapy for humans to receive approval by the Food and Drug administration (FDA) in 1982, and this development led to the expansion of different biotech industry (that produce a wide array of human therapies and other non-therapeutic products) in the world that produce similar products that help to sustain and improve mans living standard. Biotech industries across the globe have helped to create millions of jobs, and such corporations must be sustained through the use of improved strains of microorganisms that meet certain qualities which ensure improved industrial and commercial release of desired products into the market. It is noteworthy that virtually all biotech companies are profit-making ventures that capitalize on the ability of their raw materials (including microorganisms) to yield their desired products under the most minimal time and cost. Thus, microorganisms for biotechnological applications must meet certain criteria that qualify them to be used continuously to produce sustainable goods and services.

The criteria are as follows:

  • The microorganisms should be resistant to attack by predators such as bacteriophages.
  • The microorganisms must lend itself to suitable method of product harvest at the end of the process.
  • The microorganisms must be stable to unwarranted mutations.
  • It should be able to grow vigorously and rapidly in the medium under use.
  • The microorganisms must be able to grow in simple growth medium without requiring extra growth factors.
  • It must not produce toxic products as end-products.
  • The microorganisms must have a stable physiological state and genome that is not easily changed due to environmental pressures.


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