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Can J Microbiol. 1996 Mar;42(3):252-8.

Selective enumeration of aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbon degrading bacteria by a most-probable-number procedure.

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  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Cincinnati, OH 45221-0071, USA.


A most-probable-number (MPN) procedure was developed to separately enumerate aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbon degrading bacteria, because most of the currently available methods are unable to distinguish between these two groups. Separate 96-well microtiter plates are used to estimate the sizes of these two populations. The alkane-degrader MPN method uses hexadecane as the selective growth substrate and positive wells are detected by reduction of iodonitrotetrazolium violet, which is added after incubation for 2 weeks at 20 degrees C. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon degraders are grown on a mixture of phenanthrene, anthracene, fluorene, and dibenzothiophene in a second plate. Positive wells turn yellow to greenish-brown from accumulation of the partial oxidation products of the aromatic substrates and they can be scored after a 3-week incubation period. These MPN procedures are accurate and selective. For pure cultures, heterotrophic plate counts on a nonselective medium and the appropriate MPN procedure provide similar estimates of the population density. Bacteria that cannot grow on the selective substrates do not produce false positive responses even when the inoculum density is very high. Thus, this method, which is simple enough for use in the field, provides reliable estimates for the density and composition of hydrocarbon-degrading microbial populations.

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