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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Jan;69(1):275-84.

Degradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons at low temperature under aerobic and nitrate-reducing conditions in enrichment cultures from northern soils.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of British Columbia,Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3,Canada.


The potential for biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)at low temperature and under anaerobic conditions is not well understood, but such biodegradation would be very useful for remediation of polluted sites. Biodegradation of a mixture of 11 different PAHs with two to five aromatic rings, each at a concentration of 10 micro g/ml, was studied in enrichment cultures inoculated with samples of four northern soils. Under aerobic conditions, low temperature severely limited PAH biodegradation. After 90 days, aerobic cultures at 20 degrees C removed 52 to 88% of the PAHs. The most extensive PAH degradation under aerobic conditions at 7 degrees C,53% removal, occurred in a culture from creosote-contaminated soil. Low temperature did not substantially limit PAH biodegradation under nitrate-reducing conditions. Under nitrate-reducing conditions,naphthalene, 2-methylnaphthalene, fluorene, and phenanthrene were degraded. The most extensive PAH degradation under nitrate-reducing conditions at 7 degrees C, 39% removal, occurred in a culture from fuel-contaminated Arctic soil. In separate transfer cultures from the above Arctic soil, incubated anaerobically at 7 degrees C, removal of 2-methylnaphthalene and fluorene was stoichiometrically coupled to nitrate removal. Ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis suggested that enrichment resulted in a few predominant bacterial populations,including members of the genera Acidovorax,Bordetella, Pseudomonas, Sphingomonas, and Variovorax. Predominant populations from different soils often included phylotypes with nearly identical partial 16S rRNA gene sequences (i.e., same genus) but never included phylotypes with identical ribosomal intergenic spacers (i.e., different species or subspecies). The composition of the enriched communities appeared to be more affected by presence of oxygen, than by temperature or source of the inoculum.

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