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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2005 Apr 1;52(2):265-78. Epub 2004 Dec 25.

Abundance of actinobacteria and production of geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol in Danish streams and fish ponds.

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Department of Ecology, Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Thorvaldsensvej 40, DK-1871 Frederiksberg, Denmark.


Occurrence of the odours geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol (MIB) in freshwater environments indicates that odour-producing organisms are commonly occurring. In the present study, we assumed actinomycetes to be a major source of the odours. Seasonal concentrations of odours and abundance of Actinobacteria, which includes actinomycetes and other G+ and high GC bacteria, were determined in one oligotrophic and two eutrophic freshwater streams, as well as in aquacultures connected to these streams, in Denmark. Concentrations of geosmin and MIB ranged from 2 to 9 ng l(-1) and were lowest in the winter. Passage of stream water in the aquacultures increased the amount of geosmin and MIB by up to 55% and 110%, respectively. Densities of actinobacteria were determined by fluorescence in situ hybridization with catalyzed reporter deposition (CARD-FISH) technique and were found to make up from 4 to 38 x 10(7) cells l(-1), corresponding to 3-9% of the total bacterial populations. The lowest densities of actinobacteria occurred in the winter. Filamentous bacteria targeted by the FISH probe made up about 2.7-38% (average was 22%) of the actinobacteria and were expected to be actinomycetes. Combined microautoradiography and CARD-FISH demonstrated that 10-38% (incorporation of 3H-thymidine) and 41-65% (incorporation of 3H-leucine) of the actinobacteria were metabolically active. The proportion of active actinobacteria increased up to 2-fold during passage of stream water in the aquacultures, and up to 98% of the cells became active. Sequencing of 16S rRNA genes in 8 bacterial isolates with typical actinomycete morphology from the streams and ponds demonstrated that most of them belonged to the genus Streptomyces. The isolated actinomycetes produced geosmin at rates from 0.1 to 35 aggeosmin bacterium(-1)h(-1). MIB was produced at similar rates in 5 isolates, whereas no MIB was produced by three of the isolates. Addition of the odours to stream water demonstrated that indigenous stream bacteria were capable of reducing the odours, and that enrichment with LB medium stimulated the degradation. Our study shows that bacterial communities in freshwater include geosmin- and MIB-producing actinobacteria. However, the mechanisms controlling production as well as degradation of the odours in natural waters appear complex and require further research.

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