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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1998 Sep;64(9):3422-8.

Genotypic and phenotypic responses of a riverine microbial community to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon contamination.

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Department of Microbiology, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio 45056, USA.


The phenotypic and genotypic adaptation of a freshwater sedimentary microbial community to elevated (22 to 217 microgram [dry weight] of sediment-1) levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) was determined by using an integrated biomolecular approach. Central to the approach was the use of phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) profiles to characterize the microbial community structure and nucleic acid analysis to quantify the frequency of degradative genes. The study site was the Little Scioto River, a highly impacted, channelized riverine system located in central Ohio. This study site is a unique lotic system, with all sampling stations having similar flow and sediment characteristics both upstream and downstream from the source of contamination. These characteristics allowed for the specific analysis of PAH impact on the microbial community. PAH concentrations in impacted sediments ranged from 22 to 217 microgram (dry weight) of sediment-1, while PAH concentrations in ambient sediments ranged from below detection levels to 1.5 microgram (dry weight) of sediment-1. Total microbial biomass measured by phospholipid phosphate (PLP) analysis ranged from 95 to 345 nmol of PLP g (dry weight) of sediment-1. Nucleic acid analysis showed the presence of PAH-degradative genes at all sites, although observed frequencies were typically higher at contaminated sites. Principal component analysis of PLFA profiles indicated that moderate to high PAH concentrations altered microbial community structure and that seasonal changes were comparable in magnitude to the effects of PAH pollution. These data indicate that this community responded to PAH contamination at both the phenotypic and the genotypic level.

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