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Environ Microbiol. 2011 Apr;13(4):991-1009. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2010.02405.x. Epub 2011 Jan 10.

Alphaproteobacteria dominate active 2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid herbicide degraders in agricultural soil and drilosphere.

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Department of Ecological Microbiology, University of Bayreuth, Dr.-Hans-Frisch- Strasse 1-3, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany.


2-Methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid (MCPA) is a widely used phenoxyalkanoic acid herbicide and subject to aerobic microbial degradation. Earthworms stimulate both growth and activity of MCPA-degrading bacteria in soil. Thus, active MCPA degraders in soil and drilosphere (i.e. burrow walls, gut content and cast) were assessed by 16S rRNA stable isotope probing in soil columns under experimental conditions designed to minimize laboratory incubation biases. Agriculturally relevant concentrations of [(13) C]MCPA (20 µg g(dw) (-1)) were degraded in soil within 23 and 27 days in the presence and absence of earthworms respectively. Total 16S rRNA analysis revealed 73 operational taxonomic units indicative of active Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Chloroflexi, Cyanobacteria, Firmicutes, Gemmatimonadetes, Planctomycetes, Proteobacteria and Verrucomicrobia in soil and drilosphere derived material. Seven operational taxonomic units indicative of Alpha-, Beta-, Gammaproteobacteria and Firmicutes consumed MCPA-[(13) C]. Dominant consumers of MCPA-[(13) C] were Alphaproteobacteria (Sphingomonadaceae and Bradyrhizobiaceae) in soil and drilosphere. Beta- (Comamonadaceae) and Gammaproteobacteria (Xanthomonadaceae) were also important MCPA-[(13) C] consumers in burrow walls only, indicating that earthworms favour betaproteobacterial MCPA degraders. In oxic microcosms with bulk soil, burrow walls and cast, 20 and 300-400 µg g(dw) (-1) [(13) C]MCPA were consumed within 24 h and 20 days respectively. Gut contents did not facilitate the degradation of [(13) C]MCPA. Sphingomonadaceae dominated MCPA-[(13) C] consumers in bulk soil and burrow wall microcosms, while Beta- and Gammaproteobacteria (Burkholderiacea, Comamonadaceae, Oxalobacteraceae and Xanthomonadaceae) dominated MCPA-[(13) C] consumers in microcosms of cast, indicating that the latter taxa are prone to respond to MCPA in cast. The collective data indicated that Alphaproteobacteria are major MCPA degraders in soil and drilosphere.

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