Bacterial diversity of a consortium degrading high-molecular-weight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in a two-liquid phase biosystem

Isabelle Lafortune, Pierre Juteau, Eric Déziel, François Lépine, Réjean Beaudet, Richard Villemur
Microbial Ecology 2009, 57 (3): 455-68
High-molecular-weight (HMW) polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are pollutants that persist in the environment due to their low solubility in water and their sequestration by soil and sediments. Although several PAH-degrading bacterial species have been isolated, it is not expected that a single isolate would exhibit the ability to degrade completely all PAHs. A consortium composed of different microorganisms can better achieve this. Two-liquid phase (TLP) culture systems have been developed to increase the bioavailability of poorly soluble substrates for uptake and biodegradation by microorganisms. By combining a silicone oil-water TLP system with a microbial consortium capable of degrading HMW PAHs, we previously developed a highly efficient PAH-degrading system. In this report, we characterized the bacterial diversity of the consortium with a combination of culture-dependent and culture-independent methods. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of part of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene (rDNA) sequences combined with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis was used to monitor the bacterial population changes during PAH degradation of the consortium when pyrene, chrysene, and benzo[a]pyrene were provided together or separately in the TLP cultures. No substantial changes in bacterial profiles occurred during biodegradation of pyrene and chrysene in these cultures. However, the addition of the low-molecular-weight PAHs phenanthrene or naphthalene in the system favored one bacterial species related to Sphingobium yanoikuyae. Eleven bacterial strains were isolated from the consortium but, interestingly, only one-IAFILS9 affiliated to Novosphingobium pentaromativorans-was capable of growing on pyrene and chrysene as sole source of carbon. A 16S rDNA library was derived from the consortium to identify noncultured bacteria. Among 86 clones screened, 20 were affiliated to different bacterial species-genera. Only three strains were represented in the screened clones. Eighty-five percent of clones and strains were affiliated to Alphaproteobacteria and Betaproteobacteria; among them, several were affiliated to bacterial species known for their PAH degradation activities such as those belonging to the Sphingomonadaceae. Finally, three genes involved in the degradation of aromatic molecules were detected in the consortium and two in IAFILS9. This study provides information on the bacterial composition of a HWM PAH-degrading consortium and its dynamics in a TLP biosystem during PAH degradation.

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