FEMS Yeast Research Advance Access published June 24, 2015
In Delft: a personal account ABSTRACT The author looks back on his development in microbiology and yeast research, and on the establishement in Delft of the FEMS Central Office, FEMS Publications Office, and the birth of FEMS Yeast Research. KEYWORDS History, Delft, Kluyver Laboratory, Yeast research AUTHORS’S ADDRESS W. Alexander Scheffers c/o Department of Microbiology Delft University of Technology Julianalaan 67A NL-2628 BC The Netherlands [email protected]
In Delft, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, upon observing in 1674, with his home-made little lens, for the first time bacteria, described in 1680 the presence of yeast in beer. However, apart from the many breweries along the canals, it then took centuries before yeasts attained an outstanding place in Delft. In 1870, in this town J.C. van Marken founded the Gistfabriek (yeast factory) for the production of baker’s yeast and alcohol; there, in 1885, Martinus Willem Beijerinck became the head of a new microbiological laboratory. Thereupon, being appointed in 1895 as professor of microbiology at the then “Polytechnical School” in the same town, he demanded a laboratory annex private house to be built at the Nieuwelaan along the big canal (Fig. 1). Many of his famous enrichment cultures for a great variety of bacteria have been started with inocula from the canal or from his large garden. His successor in 1921, Albert Jan Kluyver (Ph.D. Thesis Delft , 1914; Kamp et al., 1959) made an audacious new start. With his co-worker he developed the revolutionary vision of “the unity in biochemistry” (Kluyver & Donker, 1926). From the graduates who in the course of years took their Ph.D. under Kluyver’s direction, a considerable part worked on yeasts: Struyk (1928), Stelling-Dekker (1931), Lodder (1934), Hoogerheide (1935), Custers (1940) and van der Walt (1952). Besides, Bulder (1963) formally obtained his degree under the successor. A remarkable achievement are the pioneering micrographs of bacteria and yeasts with the Delft prototype electron microscope (Houwink et al., 1949). As a student in chemical engineering, I became fascinated during the laboratory course on microbes, given personally by Kluyver (Fig. 2), with his assistant Verhoeven, during evening hours, and later by his lectures in the small theatre at the Nieuwelaan. I had found my destination! I decided to do the final stage of my study at Kluyver's laboratory. The subject was bacterial slime formation in a paper mill. Kluyver conducted me to the factory where we took samples for analysis in Delft. When, unexpectedly for us, Kluyver died in 1956, the laboratory was in grief. We had lost our beloved master (Fig. 3). In 1957 the successor, the Swede Torsten Wikén, arrived. In earlier years he had made a short traineeship with Kluyver and further for ten years had filled a professorship in microbiology at the ETH in Zürich. With him I formally had to make my final examination. When I expressed the wish to continue in
microbiology, he had no means to appoint me. Thereupon I independently succeeded in obtaining a small grant from the Delft University Fund. I was intrigued by the "negative Pasteur effect", described by Custers (1940) in Brettanomyces: the inhibition of fermentation under anaerobic conditions, and decided to continue these studies . At the Nieuwelaan, I developed my techniques for manometric measurement of yeast metabolism under aerobic and strictly anaerobic conditions (Fig. 4).
The next year, in 1958, we moved to the new institute at Julianalaan (Fig. 5). The laboratory, connected to the existing institutes of biochemistry and technical botany, had been designed by Kluyver, inclusive the professor's residence at the side. Alas, he had not lived to see its completion. Meanwhile I made good progress with the manometric Warburg experiments. In 1960, Wikén could appoint me as scientific assistant (Fig. 6). My experiments led me to the insight that the negative Pasteur effect resulted from a disturbance in the redox balance of the NAD+/NADH couple (Scheffers, 1961, 1966, 1967; Tromp & Scheffers, 1969; Scheffers & Misset, 1974). Over the years, various other studies were carried out on yeasts (Wikén et al.,1961, 1962; Tromp et al. 1968; Scheffers & Wikén, 1969; Smith et al., 1981; van Doorne et al., 1984), as well as on food microbiology (Bakker et al., 1968; González et al, 1971; Dijkstra et al., 1972; Golten et al., 1975; de Boer et al., 1975 a,b; Havelaar et al., 1980). Moreover, I conducted the scientific organization of the International Symposium on Analytical Methods and Problems in Biotechnology (Scheffers et al., 1984); a sequel followed four years later (te Nijenhuis et al. 1988). A favourable circumstance was the cohabitation, since Kluyver’s time, of the CBS culture collection of yeasts and our institute. Particularly Nel Kreger-van Rij (Fig. 7) guided me in the systematics of yeasts (Lodder & Kreger-van Rij, 1952, 1964) and provided many cultures from diverging genera for comparative manometric studies (Scheffers & Wikén, 1969). Meanwhile I had been commissioned with a variety of tasks in the department: administration of personnel affairs, management of the chemicals store, developing practical and lecture courses in general, sanitary, and food microbiology, coaching students in their individual research tasks. With a colleague, Peter Arntz, we monitored the microbiological quality of drinking and swimming water around the town, and with the university’s student doctor I monitored the various student canteens and kitchens for cleanliness and pathogens. With all that my own research was the closing entry. Gradually I learned to go my own way (Pernice et al., 1970; Golten & Scheffers, 1975; de Boer et al., 1975 a,b; Alonzo & Scheffers, 1975; Havelaar et al., 1980; Carrascosa et al., 1981; Smith et al., 1981; Nicolay et al. 1982, 1983). Summer 1977, Wikén unexpectedly left in retirement to his native country Sweden, leaving behind a department with meanwhile nine staff members, with administrative and laboratory personnel, and with students of various grades. The faculty then appointed me as the department’s acting chairman, a function that I fulfilled till 1980. First of all, during my summer holidays in 1977, I rushed into the preparation of my lecture course in general microbiology, to be started in September and to be presented in a new, contemporary form and content. I also organized, in the framework of the North-West European Microbiology Group’s meeting of 1977 in Amsterdam, a symposium on marine microbiology, with Rita Colwell as the main speaker. A new period started in 1980 with the appointment of Gijs Kuenen (Fig. 8) as head of the department. With him from Groningen came Hans van Dijken, who joined me in a new start of the yeast physiology project. This was the beginning of a fruitful co-operation, resulting in a flow of papers over the years to come. Besides, from 1980 till 1984, I served as the general secretary of the recently founded Netherlands Biotechnological Society. In continuation on my earlier work (Scheffers, 1961, 1966) we elaborated the role in yeasts of the redox couples NAD+/NADH and NADP+/NADPH (Bruinenberg et al., 1983 a,b; 1985 a,b). Subsequently it turned
out that these coenzymes play a determining role in the fermentation of xylose (Toivola et al., 1984; Bruinenberg et al., 1983, 1984 a,b; Verduyn et al.,1985 a,b,c; van Dijken & Scheffers, patent 1985; Pronk et al., 1988). Further work on these redox couples resulted in papers by Wijsman et al. (1984), Bruinenberg et al. (1985 a,b), and a review by van Dijken & Scheffers (1986). The isolation of mitochondria and exploration of their role in yeast metabolism were tackled in a series of articles (Bruinenberg et al., 1985 a,b; van Urk et al., 1989; Verduyn et al., 1991). In the meantime other, related work was published on fermentation in “non-fermentative” yeasts (van Dijken et al., 1986), radiorespirometric study of glucose metabolism (Bruinenberg et al., 1986 a,b), orthogonal-field-alternation banding patterns of DNA from yeasts (de Jonge et al., 1986), adenylate cyclase of yeast (Purwin et al., 1986; Noshiro et al., 1987). Besides, analytical methods were developed for measurement of alcohol production (Verduyn et al., 1983, 1984 a,b), and for protein determination (Rouwenhorst et al., 1991). A variety of enzymological aspects of yeasts came to the fore in articles on alcohol dehydrogenases (Verduyn et al., 1988 a), metabolism of 2,3-butanediol and dihydroxyacetone (Verduyn et al., 1988 b,c), hydrogen peroxide (Verduyn et al., 1988 d), pyruvate (van Urk et al., 1989), inulin (Rouwenhorst et al., 1988, 1990 a,b, 1991; Hensing et al., 1993). Sugar transport in yeasts led us to a series of papers: van Urk et al. (1989); Postma et al. (1988,1989, 1990), Weusthuis et al. (1993). At the same time, also many papers dealing with aspects of regulation appeared: van Urk et al. (1988, 1990); Postma et al. (1989 a,b); Verduyn et al. (1990 a,b, 1991, 1992), Visser et al. (1990); Weusthuis et al. (1994 a,b); Pronk et al. (1994 a,b). Besides, I got involved in studies on the molecular biology of yeasts (Boekhout et al., 1993, 1997). From 1987 till 1997 I was a member of the CBS Science Commission. In 1990, my official, obligatory retirement from the university procured me time to take up new tasks. I became a board member of the Netherlands Society for Microbiology and founded its Section Mycology (Scheffers, 1994). As members of the International Commission on Yeasts, Hans van Dijken and I organized the 16th International Specialized Symposium on Yeasts on Metabolic Compartmentation (Scheffers & van Dijken, 1993). In 1995 we took part in the organization of the Beijerinck Centennial (Scheffers & van Dijken, 1995), in 1995 I contributed a commemorative paper on the centennial of the Delft School of Microbiology (Scheffers, 1996) and in 1999 I edited the contributed papers of the Eijkman Centennial (Scheffers, 1999). In 1997, the FEMS Executive Board asked me to investigate the possibility of establishing, in The Netherlands, a Central Office for its organization. In view of the historical part of Delft in the development of microbiology, I saw this as the right place. So I was happy to obtain permission for the use of a few rooms in the former professor’s house adjacent to the laboratory of microbiology of the Delft University of Technology. In this office the FEMS Board Members assembled shortly after that, to see the applicants. Diman van Rossum was then selected as the first Executive Officer of FEMS Central Office (1998-2006). He was supported by a small administrative staff. Soon followed the appointment of Wilma van Wezenbeek as the Executive Officer for FEMS Publications (2000-2006) and her assistant Gillian van Beest. Shortly afterwards, FEMS Executive Board invited me to set up its fifth journal, FEMS Yeast Research. An important task would be to find eligible candidates for the future editorial board. An excellent opportunity presented itself during the Tenth International Symposium on Yeasts, organized in 2000 at Papendal (Arnhem) (van Dijken & Scheffers, 2000). The invited candidates showed great approval and soon I could start with an outstanding editorial board. The new journal developed favourably, and after five years I
could turn over chief editorship to Teun Boekhout for another five years. Since then the task is in the able hands of Jens Nielsen. In 2003 I was honoured with the FEMS Special Award (Fig. 9). I enjoyed being involved in so many aspects of microbiology, in particular of yeasts. The concerted action with so many capable colleagues and friends was a great privilege and joy. I was happy to be a co-author in a collective paper (van Maris et al., 2006) by the group of Jack Pronk (Fig. 10). And I was delighted when our xylose-fermenting yeast, Pichia stipitis, was relegated to the new genus Scheffersomyces (Kurtzman & Suzuki, 2010). I congratulate FEMS at the occasion of its 40th anniversary and wish it a bright and golden future ! And may FEMS Yeast Research continue to be a valuable and esteemed offspring on its stock!
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT To Cocky, my wife, and our children Peter and Irene, for their love and support throughout the years.
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Fig.1 The Professor’s residence (left part) connected to the laboratory (right) of Beijerinck and Kluyver at Nieuwelaan 3
Fig.2 Kluyver in the library. Photo by J.A. Schuur
Fig.3 Kluyver in his workroom with van Niel, during the preparation of their book (1955). Photo by J.K. Baars
Fig. 4 The author at a manometric experiment, measuring aerobic and anaerobic fermentation and respiration rates of yeasts (1958)
Fig. 5 The laboratory of Julianalaan
Fig. 6 Wikén with the author. Photo by J.A. Schuur
Fig. 7 Nel Kreger-van Rij, Yeast Division of Centraalbureauu voor Schimmelcultures (CBS)
Fig. 8 Gijs Kuenen with Peter Arntz, at the latter’s silver jubilee (1980). Photo by J.A. Schuur
Fig. 9 FEMS Special Award, presented to the author during the first FEMS Symposium, Ljubljana (2003). Photo by Diman van Rossum
Fig. 10 The author, Jack Pronk and Hans van Dijken (from left to right) on the lake of Bled, Slovenia, during the International Specialised Symposium on Yeasts (1997). Photo by Leonie Raamsdonk