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Biodegradation. 2006 Dec;17(6):545-57. Epub 2006 Feb 14.

A bioremediation approach using natural transformation in pure-culture and mixed-population biofilms.

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Department of Microbiology, Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, University of Idaho, Life Science 142, P.O.Box 443052, Moscow, ID, 83844-3052, USA.


Bacterial transformation by naked DNA is thought to contribute to gene transfer and microbial evolution within natural environments. In nature many microbial communities exist as complex assemblages known as biofilms where genetic exchange is facilitated. It may be possible to take advantage of natural transformation processes to modify the phenotypes of biofilm communities giving them specific and desirable functions. Work described here shows that biofilms composed of either pure cultures or mixed populations can be transformed with specific catabolic genes such that the communities acquire the ability to degrade a particular xenobiotic compound. Biofilms were transformed by plasmids bearing genes encoding green fluorescent protein (mut2) and/or atrazine chlorohydrolase (atzA). Confocal microscopy was used to quantify the number of transformants expressing mut2 in the biofilms. Degradation of atrazine by expressed atzA was quantified by tandem mass spectrometry. PCR analysis was performed to confirm the presence of atzA in transformed biofilms. These results indicate that it should be possible to use natural transformation to enhance bioremediation processes performed by biofilms.

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