Biodegradation and surfactant-mediated biodegradation of diesel fuel by 218 microbial consortia are not correlated to cell surface hydrophobicity

Mikołaj Owsianiak, Alicja Szulc, Łukasz Chrzanowski, Paweł Cyplik, Mariusz Bogacki, Agnieszka K Olejnik-Schmidt, Hermann J Heipieper
Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 2009, 84 (3): 545-53
In this study, we elucidated the role of cell surface hydrophobicity (microbial adhesion to hydrocarbons method, MATH) and the effect of anionic rhamnolipids and nonionic Triton X-100 surfactants on biodegradation of diesel fuel employing 218 microbial consortia isolated from petroleum-contaminated soils. Applied enrichment procedure with floating diesel fuel as a sole carbon source in liquid cultures resulted in consortia of varying biodegradation potential and diametrically different cell surface properties, suggesting that cell surface hydrophobicity is a conserved parameter. Surprisingly, no correlations between cell surface hydrophobicity and biodegradation of diesel fuel were found. Nevertheless, both surfactants altered cell surface hydrophobicity of the consortia in similar manner: increased for the hydrophilic and decreased for the hydrophobic cultures. In addition to this, the surfactants exhibited similar influence on diesel fuel biodegradation: Increase was observed for initially slow-degrading cultures and the opposite for fast degraders. This indicates that in the surfactant-mediated biodegradation, effectiveness of surfactants depends on the specification of microorganisms and not on the type of surfactant. In contrary to what was previously reported for pure strains, cell surface hydrophobicity, as determined by MATH, is not a good descriptor of biodegrading potential for mixed cultures.

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