What is Auxotrophy?

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson is going to explain auxotrophy. You'll find out what organisms this involves, how they differ from prototrophs, and what they need to properly grow.


There's a huge craze that's been happening around the world for the better part of several decades. It's the craze of popping all sorts of supplements for one thing or another. Many doctors say we really don't need those supplements so long as we eat a normal diet. That's because with a normal diet, our body will have enough nutrients to help us grow or keep us healthy.

Of course, some people may have inadequate diets or even health conditions that may require the use supplements to properly grow. Believe it or not, some similar things can be said with respect to microscopic organisms.

You're about to find out how this is the case on this lesson on auxotrophy and exactly what that is.

What is Auxotrophy?

Auxotrophy is a term that refers to a situation where an organism cannot make a compound that is required for its growth. In other words, it needs to pop a few supplement pills in order to grow.

The term comes to us from 'auxo-', which actually stems from the Greek auxano, meaning to increase. The suffix of '-trophy' refers to the Greek word trophe, which means food or nutrition. So, by literal word part by word part translation an auxotroph is an organism requiring increased nourishment. This is usually said with respect to a comparison to another organism or, in general, with respect to an idea like increased nourishment for overall growth regardless of any other comparison to another organism.

Comparison to Prototrophs

Moreover, auxotrophy is often used to describe mutant strains, strains of bacteria, algae, or fungi, which differ from the original wild-type strains. These wild or parental organisms are able to synthesize an organic compound, like an amino acid, required for its growth.

As a result, these parental strains are able to grow on minimal media or media lacking any supplements. Organisms carrying the same nutritional characteristics and metabolic capabilities as the wild-type/parental strain are known as prototrophs.

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