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Environ Microbiol. 2005 Jun;7(6):806-18.

Physiological and molecular characterization of a microbial community established in unsaturated, petroleum-contaminated soil.

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Marine Biotechnology Institute, 3-75-1 Heita, Kamaishi, Iwate 026-0001, Japan.


The microbial communities established in soil samples from an unsaturated, petroleum-contaminated zone and from an adjacent uncontaminated site were characterized by physiological and molecular approaches. Possible electron acceptors such as sulfate and nitrate had been completely depleted in these soil samples. Slurries of these soil samples were incubated in bottles in the presence of hydrocarbon indicators (benzene, toluene, xylene and decane), and the degradation of these compounds was examined. Supplementation with electron acceptors stimulated hydrocarbon degradation, although the stimulatory effect was small in the contaminated soil. The initial degradation rates in the contaminated soil under fermentative/methanogenic conditions were comparable to those under aerobic conditions. The microbial populations in the original soil samples were analysed by cloning and sequencing of polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-amplified bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA gene fragments, showing that the sequences retrieved from these soils were substantially different. For instance, Epsilonproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, Crenarchaeota and Methanosarcinales could only be detected at significant levels in the contaminated soil. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analyses of 16S rRNA gene fragments amplified by PCR from the incubated soil-slurry samples showed that supplementation of the electron acceptors resulted in a shift in the major populations, while the DGGE profiles after incubating the contaminated soil under the fermentative/methanogenic conditions were not substantially changed. These results suggest that petroleum contamination of the unsaturated zone resulted in the establishment of a fermentative/methanogenic community with substantial hydrocarbon-degrading potential.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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