, Volume 44, Issue 5, pp 660-667

Emulsifier production and microscopical study of emulsions and biofilms formed by the hydrocarbon-utilizing bacteria Acinetobacter calcoaceticus MM5

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A bacterial strain was isolated from a sample of contaminated heating oil and identified as a strain of Acinetobacter calcoaceticus, named MM5. The bacterial isolate was able to grow on petroleum derivatives and brought about an emulsification of those compounds. A bioemulsifier was extracted from the culture medium of MM5 strain and partially characterized. This compound was able to emulsify petroleum fuels and both aliphatic and aromatic pure hydrocarbons and was stable over a wide range of temperatures. Studies developed by light, scanning electron and transmission electron microscopy showed that, during the growth on petroleum derivatives, the microorganisms were orientated on the surface of drops enclosed in a skin or membranous polymer produced by the bacteria. These droplets may represent the hydrocarbon/water emulsion of the liquid culture. The growth of A. calcoaceticus MM5 on media containing both hydrocarbon and water-soluble substrates as carbon sources also results in the formation of a film, consisting of amorphous and membranous layers. The bacteria were connected to the biofilm and showed intercellular contacts through cell-surface appendages, forming a complex network. The importance of the biofilms for bacterial adhesion to oil droplets and for its nourishment is discussed.