Role of rhamnolipid biosurfactants in the uptake and mineralization of hexadecane in Pseudomonas aeruginosa

R Beal, W B Betts
Journal of Applied Microbiology 2000, 89 (1): 158-68
A study was undertaken to investigate the mechanisms for biosurfactant-enhanced hexadecane uptake into Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Two strains of Ps. aeruginosa were studied, one producing rhamnolipids (PG201) and the other rhamnolipid deficient (UO299). Rhamnolipids produced by PG201 acted to increase the solubility of n-hexadecane in the culture medium (from 1.84 to 22.76 microg l(-1). Rates of(l4)C-n-hexadecane uptake and mineralization were higher in PG201 than in UO299. However, the degree of difference was lower than expected. Additional studies were carried out on the cell surface properties of the two strains. During growth on n-hexadecane, the cell surface hydrophobicity of both PG201 (50.5%) and UO299 (33.7%) increased compared with that observed in water-soluble growth substrates (7-8%). Studies were also carried out to ascertain any energy requirements for the transport of n-hexadecane into Ps. aeruginosa cells. The addition of CCCP (an inhibitor of cytochrome oxidase which thereby blocks oxidative phosphorylation) at a range of concentrations caused a marked decrease in n-hexadecane uptake, indicating that n-hexadecane uptake in Ps. aeruginosa is an energy-dependent process. These studies support the hypothesis of alkane transport into microbial cells by direct contact with larger alkane droplets and by pseudosolubilization. Also, it appears that both mechanisms occur simultaneously.

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