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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1999 Nov;65(11):4788-92.

Biodegradation of methyl tert-butyl ether by a bacterial pure culture.

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  • 1Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.


A bacterial strain, PM1, which is able to utilize methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) as its sole carbon and energy source, was isolated from a mixed microbial consortium in a compost biofilter capable of degrading MTBE. Initial linear rates of MTBE degradation by 2 x 10(6) cells ml(-1) were 0.07, 1.17, and 3.56 microg ml(-1) h(-1) for initial concentrations of 5, 50, and 500 microg MTBE ml(-1), respectively. When incubated with 20 microg of uniformly labeled [(14)C]MTBE ml(-1), strain PM1 converted 46% to (14)CO(2) and 19% to (14)C-labeled cells within 120 h. This yield is consistent with the measurement of protein accumulation at different MTBE concentrations from which was estimated a biomass yield of 0.18 mg of cells mg MTBE(-1). Strain PM1 was inoculated into sediment core material collected from a contaminated groundwater plume at Port Hueneme, California, in which there was no evidence of MTBE degradation. Strain PM1 readily degraded 20 microg of MTBE ml(-1) added to the core material. The rate of MTBE removal increased with additional inputs of 20 microg of MTBE ml(-1). These results suggest that PM1 has potential for use in the remediation of MTBE-contaminated environments.

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