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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Jan;69(1):434-43.

Biodegradation of an alicyclic hydrocarbon by a sulfate-reducing enrichment from a gas condensate-contaminated aquifer.

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Institute for Energy and the Environment and Department of Botany and Microbiology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma 73019, USA.


We used ethylcyclopentane (ECP) as a model alicyclic hydrocarbon and investigated its metabolism by a sulfate-reducing bacterial enrichment obtained from a gas condensate-contaminated aquifer. The enrichment coupled the consumption of ECP with the stoichiometrically expected amount of sulfate reduced. During ECP biodegradation, we observed the transient accumulation of metabolite peaks by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, three of which had identical mass spectrometry profiles. Mass-spectral similarities to analogous authentic standards allowed us to identify these metabolites as ethylcyclopentylsuccinic acids, ethylcyclopentylpropionic acid, ethylcyclopentylcarboxylic acid, and ethylsuccinic acid. Based on these findings, we propose a pathway for the degradation of this alicyclic hydrocarbon. Furthermore, a putative metabolite similar to ethylcyclopentylsuccinic acid was also found in samples of contaminated groundwater from the aquifer. However, no such finding was evident for samples collected from wells located upgradient of the gas condensate spill. Microbial community analysis of the ECP-degrading enrichment by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis revealed the presence of at least three different organisms using universal eubacterial primers targeting 550 bp of the 16S rRNA gene. Based on sequence analysis, these organisms are phylogenetically related to the genera Syntrophobacter and Desulfotomaculum as well as a member of the Cytophaga-Flexibacter-Bacteroides group. The evidence suggests that alicyclic hydrocarbons such as ECP can be anaerobically activated by the addition to the double bond of fumarate to form alkylsuccinate derivatives under sulfate-reducing conditions and that the reaction occurs in the laboratory and in hydrocarbon-impacted environments.

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