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Environmental microbes
In the Literature.

Here, GNN highlights six papers about bioremediation—the use of microbes to clean up the environment—related to the feature The World's Toughest Bacterium.


Bioavailability and biodegradation of prosulfocarb in soil.

Active microbial degraders of the herbicide prosulfocarb (PSC) were isolated to evaluate their performance in soil with a view to their use for bioremediation. The isolated cultures (a microbial consortium and a Pseudomonas sp. strain) were active when tested in mineral medium with PSC as the only carbon source, but had an adverse effect on the soil indigenous microflora. Biodegradation in the inoculated soils was thus lower than in the uninoculated soil when only the indigenous microflora was present. Further tests showed that the strong affinity of PSC for soil organic matter affected its bioavailability and hence its biodegradation by the inocula. Bioremediation of PSC contaminated soils could thus be undertaken by biostimulation of indigenous microflora.

J Environ Sci Health B 2002 Jul;37(4):297-305.

Effectiveness of Bioremediation of Crude Oil Contaminated Subantarctic Intertidal Sediment: The Microbial Response.

A field study was initiated in February 1996 in a remote sandy beach of The Grande Terre (Kerguelen Archipelago, 69 degrees 42 degrees E, 49 degrees 19 degrees S) with the objective of determining the long-term effects of some bioremediation agents on the biodegradation rate and the toxicity of oil residues under severe subantarctic conditions. A series of 10 experimental plots were settled firmly into sediment. Each plot received 2L of Arabian light crude oil and some of them were treated with bioremediation agents: slow release fertilizer Inipol EAP-22 (Elf Atochem) or fish composts. Plots were sampled on a regular basis over a 3-year period. A two-order of magnitude increase of saprophytic and hydrocarbon-utilizing microorganisms occurred during the first month of the experiment in all treated enclosures, but no clear differences appeared between the plots. Very high microbial populations were present during the experiment. Biodegradation within treated spots was faster than within the untreated ones and appeared almost complete after 6 months as indicated by the degradation index of aliphatic hydrocarbons within all plots. The analysis of interstitial water collected below the oily residues presented no toxicity. However, a high toxicity signal, using Microtox solid phase, appeared for all oiled sand samples with a noticeable reduction with time even if the toxicity signal remained present and strong after 311 days of oil exposition. As a conclusion, it is clear that the microbial response was rapid and efficient in spite of the severe weather conditions, and the rate of degradation was improved in presence of bioremediation agents. However, the remaining residues had a relatively high toxicity.

Microb Ecol 2002 Jun 13; [epub ahead of print].

Use of 16S-rRNA to investigate microbial population dynamics during biodegradation of toluene and phenol by a binary culture.

Interspecies interactions and changes in the rate and extent of biodegradation in mixed culture-mixed substrate studies were investigated. A binary mixed culture of Pseudomonas putida F1 and Burkholderia sp. JS150 degraded toluene, phenol, and their mixture. Both toluene and phenol can serve as sole sources of carbon and energy for both P. putida F1 and strain JS150. To investigate the population dynamics of this system, a fluorescent in-situ hybridization method was chosen because of its ability to produce quantitative data, its low standard error, and the ease of use of this method. When the binary mixed culture was grown on toluene or phenol alone, significant interactions between the species were observed. These interactions could not be explained by a pure-and-simple competition model and were substrate dependent. Strain JS150 growth was slightly inhibited when grown with P. putida F1 on phenol, and P. putida F1 grew more rapidly than expected. Conversely, when the two species were grown together on toluene alone, P. putida F1 was inhibited while strain JS150 was unaffected. During growth of the mixed culture on a combination of toluene and phenol, the interactions were similar to that observed during growth on phenol alone; P. putida F1 growth was enhanced while strain JS150 was unaffected. Because of the observed interspecies interactions, monoculture kinetic parameters were not sufficient to describe the mixed culture kinetics in any experiment. This is one of the first reports of microbial population dynamics in which molecular microbial ecology and mathematical modeling have been combined. The use of the 16S-rRNA-based method allowed for observation and understanding of interspecies interactions that were not observable with standard culture-based methods. These results suggest the need for more investigations that account for both substrate and microbial interactions when predicting the fate of organic pollutants in real systems.

Biotechnol Bioeng 2000 Nov 20;70(4):436-45.

Toluene-degrading bacteria are chemotactic towards the environmental pollutants benzene, toluene, and trichloroethylene.

The bioremediation of polluted groundwater and toxic waste sites requires that bacteria come into close physical contact with pollutants. This can be accomplished by chemotaxis. Five motile strains of bacteria that use five different pathways to degrade toluene were tested for their ability to detect and swim towards this pollutant. Three of the five strains (Pseudomonas putida F1, Ralstonia pickettii PKO1, and Burkholderia cepacia G4) were attracted to toluene. In each case, the response was dependent on induction by growth with toluene. Pseudomonas mendocina KR1 and P. putida PaW15 did not show a convincing response. The chemotactic responses of P. putida F1 to a variety of toxic aromatic hydrocarbons and chlorinated aliphatic compounds were examined. Compounds that are growth substrates for P. putida F1, including benzene and ethylbenzene, were chemoattractants. P. putida F1 was also attracted to trichloroethylene (TCE), which is not a growth substrate but is dechlorinated and detoxified by P. putida F1. Mutant strains of P. putida F1 that do not oxidize toluene were attracted to toluene, indicating that toluene itself and not a metabolite was the compound detected. The two-component response regulator pair TodS and TodT, which control expression of the toluene degradation genes in P. putida F1, were required for the response. This demonstration that soil bacteria can sense and swim towards the toxic compounds toluene, benzene, TCE, and related chemicals suggests that the introduction of chemotactic bacteria into selected polluted sites may accelerate bioremediation processes.

Appl Environ Microbiol 2000 Sep;66(9):4098-104.

Biodegradation kinetics of benzene, toluene, and phenol as single and mixed substrates for Pseudomonas putida F1.

Although microbial growth on substrate mixtures is commonly encountered in bioremediation, wastewater treatment, and fermentation, mathematical modeling of mixed substrate kinetics has been limited. We report the kinetics of Pseudomonas putida F1 growing on benzene, toluene, phenol, and their mixtures, and compare mathematical models to describe these results. The three aromatics are each able to act as carbon and energy sources for this strain. Biodegradation rates were measured in batch cultivations following a protocol that eliminated mass transfer limitations for the volatile substrates and considered the culture history of the inoculum and the initial substrate to inoculum mass ratio. Toluene and benzene were better growth substrates than phenol, resulting in faster growth and higher yield coefficients. In the concentration ranges tested, toluene and benzene biodegradation kinetics were well described by the Monod model. The Monod model was also used to characterize phenol biodegradation by P. putida F1, although a small degree of substrate inhibition was noted. In mixture experiments, the rate of consumption of one substrate was found to be affected by the presence of the others, although the degree of influence varied widely. The substrates are catabolized by the same enzymatic pathway, but purely competitive enzyme kinetics did not capture the substrate interactions well. Toluene significantly inhibited the biodegradation rate of both of the other substrates, and benzene slowed the consumption of phenol (but not of toluene). Phenol had little effect on the biodegradation of either toluene or benzene. Of the models tested, a sum kinetics with interaction parameters (SKIP) model provided the best description of the paired substrate results. This model, with parameters determined from one- and two-substrate experiments, provided an excellent prediction of the biodegradation kinetics for the three-component mixture.

Biotechnol Bioeng 2000 Aug 20;69(4):385-400.

Bioremediation of petroleum hydrocarbon contaminants in marine habitats.

Bioremediation is being increasingly seen as an effective, environmentally benign treatment for shorelines contaminated as a result of marine oil spills. Despite a relatively long history of research on oil-spill bioremediation, it remains an essentially empirical technology and many of the factors that control bioremediation have yet to be adequately understood. Nutrient amendment is a widely accepted practice in oil-spill bioremediation but there is scant understanding of the systematic effects of nutrient amendment on biodegradative microbial populations or the progress of bioremediation. Recent laboratory and field research suggests that resource-ratio theory may provide a theoretical framework that explains the effects of nutrient amendment on indigenous microbial populations. In particular, the theory has been invoked to explain recent observations that nutrient levels, and their relative concentration, influence the composition of hydrocarbon-degrading microbial populations. This in turn influences the biodegradation rate of aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons. If such results are confirmed in the field, then it may be possible to use this theoretical framework to select bioremediation treatments that specifically encourage the rapid destruction of the most toxic components of complex pollutant mixtures.

Curr Opin Biotechnol 1999 Jun;10(3):234-9.

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