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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1999 Jul;65(7):2969-76.

Isolation and characterization of a sulfate-reducing bacterium that anaerobically degrades alkanes.

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Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment and Department of Environmental Sciences, Cook College, Rutgers, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901-8520, USA.


An alkane-degrading, sulfate-reducing bacterial strain, AK-01, was isolated from an estuarine sediment with a history of chronic petroleum contamination. The bacterium is a short, nonmotile, non-spore-forming, gram-negative rod. It is mesophilic and grows optimally at pH 6.9 to 7.0 and at an NaCl concentration of 1%. Formate, fatty acids (C4 to C16) and hydrogen were readily utilized as electron donors. Sulfate, sulfite, and thiosulfate were used as electron acceptors, but sulfur, nitrite, and nitrate were not. Phenotypic characterization and phylogenetic analysis based on 16S rRNA gene sequence indicate that AK-01 is most closely related to the genera Desulfosarcina, Desulfonema, and Desulfococcus in the delta subdivision of the class Proteobacteria. It is phenotypically and phylogenetically different from strains Hxd3 and TD3, two previously reported isolates of alkane-degrading, sulfate-reducing bacteria. The alkanes tested to support growth of AK-01 had chain lengths of C13 to C18. 1-Alkenes (C15 and C16) and 1-alkanols (C15 and C16) also supported growth. The doubling time for growth on hexadecane was 3 days, about four times longer than that for growth on hexadecanoate. Mineralization of hexadecane was indicated by the recovery of 14CO2 from cultures grown on [1-14C]hexadecane. Degradation of hexadecane was dependent on sulfate reduction. The stoichiometric ratio (as moles of sulfate reduced per mole of hexadecane degraded) was 10.6, which is very close to the theoretical ratio of 12.25, assuming a complete oxidation to CO2. Anaerobic alkane degradation by sulfate reducers may be a more widespread phenomenon than was previously thought.

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