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Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2012 Nov;19(9):3997-4005. doi: 10.1007/s11356-012-0897-x. Epub 2012 Apr 15.

Air-dust-borne associations of phototrophic and hydrocarbon-utilizing microorganisms: promising consortia in volatile hydrocarbon bioremediation.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, Kuwait University, PO Box 5969, Safat, Kuwait, 13060, Kuwait.


Aquatic and terrestrial associations of phototrophic and heterotrophic microorganisms active in hydrocarbon bioremediation have been described earlier. The question arises: do similar consortia also occur in the atmosphere? Dust samples at the height of 15 m were collected from Kuwait City air, and analyzed microbiologically for phototrophic and heterotrophic hydrocarbon-utilizing microorganisms, which were subsequently characterized according to their 16S rRNA gene sequences. The hydrocarbon utilization potential of the heterotrophs alone, and in association with the phototrophic partners, was measured quantitatively. The chlorophyte Gloeotila sp. and the two cyanobacteria Nostoc commune and Leptolyngbya thermalis were found associated with dust, and (for comparison) the cynobacteria Leptolyngbya sp. and Acaryochloris sp. were isolated from coastal water. All phototrophic cultures harbored oil vapor-utilizing bacteria in the magnitude of 10(5) g(-1). Each phototrophic culture had its unique oil-utilizing bacteria; however, the bacterial composition in Leptolyngbya cultures from air and water was similar. The hydrocarbon-utilizing bacteria were affiliated with Acinetobacter sp., Aeromonas caviae, Alcanivorax jadensis, Bacillus asahii, Bacillus pumilus, Marinobacter aquaeolei, Paenibacillus sp., and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia. The nonaxenic cultures, when used as inocula in batch cultures, attenuated crude oil in light and dark, and in the presence of antibiotics and absence of nitrogenous compounds. Aqueous and diethyl ether extracts from the phototrophic cultures enhanced the growth of the pertinent oil-utilizing bacteria in batch cultures, with oil vapor as a sole carbon source. It was concluded that the airborne microbial associations may be effective in bioremediating atmospheric hydrocarbon pollutants in situ. Like the aquatic and terrestrial habitats, the atmosphere contains dust-borne associations of phototrophic and heterotrophic hydrocarbon-utilizing bacteria that are active in hydrocarbon attenuation.

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