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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Jun;68(6):2829-37.

Species diversity improves the efficiency of mercury-reducing biofilms under changing environmental conditions.

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  • 1Division of Microbiology. Division of Biochemical Engineering, German Research Centre for Biotechnology, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany.


Six mercury-resistant environmental proteobacterial isolates and one genetically modified mercury-resistant Pseudomonas putida strain were analyzed for physiological traits of adaptive relevance in an environment of packed-bed bioreactors designed for the decontamination of mercury-polluted chlor-alkali wastewater. The strains displayed characteristic differences in each trait (i.e., biofilm formation capability, growth rate in mercury contaminated wastewaters, and mercury reduction efficiency). Subsequently, they were immobilized either as a monoculture or as a mixed culture on porous carrier material in packed-bed bioreactors through which different batches of filter-sterilized industrial chlor-alkali wastewater were pumped. In monospecies bioreactors, the mercury retention efficiency was sensitive to rapidly increasing mercury concentrations in the wastewater. Mixed culture biofilms displayed a high mercury retention efficiency that was not affected by rapid increases in mercury or continuously high mercury concentrations. The dynamic in the community composition of the mixed culture bioreactors was determined by ribosomal intergenic spacer polymorphism analysis. Mercury-mediated selective pressure decreased the number of prevalent strains. Microbial diversity was completely restored after easing of the selective pressure. Microbial diversity provides a reservoir of strains with complementary ecological niches that results in a superior bioreactor performance under changing environmental conditions.

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