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Microb Ecol. 2004 Apr;47(3):284-92. Epub 2004 Mar 4.

Utilization of microbial biofilms as monitors of bioremediation.

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  • 1Center for Biomarker Analysis, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37932, USA.


A down-well aquifer microbial sampling system was developed using glass wool or Bio-Sep beads as a solid-phase support matrix. Here we describe the use of these devices to monitor the groundwater microbial community dynamics during field bioremediation experiments at the U.S. Department of Energy Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research Program's Field Research Center at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. During the 6-week deployment, microbial biofilms colonized glass wool and bead internal surfaces. Changes in viable biomass, community composition, metabolic status, and respiratory state were reflected in sampler composition, type of donor, and groundwater pH. Biofilms that formed on Bio-Sep beads had 2-13 times greater viable biomass; however, the bead communities were less metabolically active [higher cyclopropane/monoenoic phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) ratios] and had a lower aerobic respiratory state (lower total respiratory quinone/ PLFA ratio and ubiquinone/menaquinone ratio) than the biofilms formed on glass wool. Anaerobic growth in these systems was characterized by plasmalogen phospholipids and was greater in the wells that received electron donor additions. Partial 16S rDNA sequences indicated that Geobacter and nitrate-reducing organisms were induced by the acetate, ethanol, or glucose additions. DNA and lipid biomarkers were extracted and recovered without the complications that commonly plague sediment samples due to the presence of clay or dissolved organic matter. Although microbial community composition in the groundwater or adjacent sediments may differ from those formed on down-well biofilm samplers, the metabolic activity responses of the biofilms to modifications in groundwater geochemistry record the responses of the microbial community to biostimulation while providing integrative sampling and ease of recovery for biomarker analysis.

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