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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1998 Aug;64(8):3014-22.

Microcosm enrichment of biphenyl-degrading microbial communities from soils and sediments.

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Department of Microbiology, GBF National Research Institute for Biotechnology, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany.


A microcosm enrichment approach was employed to isolate bacteria which are representative of long-term biphenyl-adapted microbial communities. Growth of microorganisms was stimulated by incubating soil and sediment samples from polluted and nonpolluted sites with biphenyl crystals. After 6 months, stable population densities between 8 x 10(9) and 2 x 10(11) CFU/ml were established in the microcosms, and a large percentage of the organisms were able to grow on biphenyl-containing minimal medium plates. A total of 177 biphenyl-degrading strains were subsequently isolated and characterized by their ability to grow on biphenyl in liquid culture and to accumulate a yellow meta cleavage product when they were sprayed with dihydroxybiphenyl. Isolates were identified by using a polyphasic approach, including fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) analysis, 16S rRNA gene sequence comparison, sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of whole-cell proteins, and genomic fingerprinting based on sequence variability in the 16S-23S ribosomal DNA intergenic spacer region. In all of the microcosms, isolates identified as Rhodococcus opacus dominated the cultivable microbial community, comprising a cluster of 137 isolates with very similar FAME profiles (Euclidean distances, <10) and identical 16S rRNA gene sequences. The R. opacus isolates from the different microcosms studied could not be distinguished from each other by any of the fingerprint methods used. In addition, three other FAME clusters were found in one or two of the microcosms analyzed; these clusters could be assigned to Alcaligenes sp., Terrabacter sp., and Bacillus thuringiensis on the basis of their FAME profiles and/or comparisons of the 16S rRNA gene sequences of representatives. Thus, the microcosm enrichments were strongly dominated by gram-positive bacteria, especially the species R. opacus, independent of the pollution history of the original sample. R. opacus, therefore, is a promising candidate for development of effective long-term inocula for polychlorinated biphenyl bioremediation.

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