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J Appl Microbiol. 2001 Feb;90(2):237-47.

Isolation and characterization of a novel hydrocarbon-degrading, Gram-positive bacterium, isolated from intertidal beach sediment, and description of Planococcus alkanoclasticus sp. nov.

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AEA Technology, Environment, Culham, Abingdon, UK.



Characterization of a bacterial isolate (strain MAE2) from intertidal beach sediment capable of degrading linear and branched alkanes.


A Gram-positive, aerobic, heterotrophic bacterium (strain MAE2), that was capable of extensive degradation of alkanes in crude oil but had a limited capacity for the utilization of other organic compounds, was isolated from intertidal beach sediment. MAE2 had an obligate requirement for NaCl but could not tolerate high salt concentrations. It was capable of degrading branched and n-alkanes in crude oil from C11 to C33, but was unable to degrade aromatic hydrocarbons. Comparative 16S rRNA sequence analysis placed the isolate with members of the genus Planococcus. That finding was corroborated by chemotaxonomic and physiological data. The fatty acid composition of strain MAE2 was very similar to the type species of the genus Planococcus, P. citreus (NCIMB 1493T) and P. kocurii (NCIMB 629T), and was dominated by branched acids, mainly a15:0. However, the 16S rRNA of strain MAE2 had less than 97% sequence identity with the type strains of P. citreus (NCIMB 1439T), P. kocurii (NCIMB 629T) and two Planococcus spp. (strain MB6-16 and strain ICO24) isolated from Antarctic sea ice. This indicated that strain MAE2 represented a separate species from these planococci. Morphologically, the isolate resembled P. okeanokoites (NCIMB 561T) and P. mcmeekinii S23F2 (ATCC 700539T). The cellular fatty acid composition of P. okeanokoites and P. mcmeekinii was considerably different from strain MAE2, and the mol % G + C content of P. mcmeekinii was far lower than that of MAE2.


On the basis of phenotypic and genotypic data, it is proposed that strain MAE2 is a new species of Planococcus, Planococcus alkanoclasticus sp. nov., for which the type strain is P. alkanoclasticus MAE2 (NCIMB 13489T).


Planococcus species are abundant members of the bacterial community in a variety of marine environments, including some in sensitive Antarctic ecosystems. The occurrence of hydrocarbon-degrading Planococcus spp. is potentially of importance in controlling the impact of hydrocarbon contamination in sensitive marine environments.

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