, Volume 64, Issue 4, pp 576-587
Date: 18 Nov 2003

Intrinsic bioremediability of an aromatic hydrocarbon-polluted groundwater: diversity of bacterial population and toluene monoxygenase genes

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The functional and phylogenetic biodiversity of bacterial communities in a benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX)-polluted groundwater was analysed. To evaluate the feasibility of using an air sparging treatment to enhance bacterial degradative capabilities, the presence of degrading microorganisms was monitored. The amplification of gene fragments corresponding to toluene monooxygenase (tmo), catechol 1,2-dioxygenase, catechol 2,3-dioxygenase and toluene dioxygenase genes in DNA extracted directly from the groundwater samples was associated with the presence of indigenous degrading bacteria. Five months of air injection reduced species diversity in the cultivable community (as calculated by the Shannon-Weaver index), while little change was noted in the degree of biodiversity in the total bacterial community, as characterised by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis. BTEX-degrading strains belonged to the genera Pseudomonas, Microbacterium, Azoarcus, Mycobacterium and Bradyrhizobium. The degrading capacities of three strains in batch liquid cultures were also studied. In some of these microorganisms different pathways for toluene degradation seemed to operate simultaneously. Pseudomonas strains of the P24 operational taxonomic unit, able to grow only on catechol and not on BTEX, were the most abundant, and were present in the groundwater community at all stages of treatment, as evidenced both by cultivation approaches and by DGGE profiles. The presence of different tmo-like genes in phylogenetically distant strains of Pseudomonas, Mycobacterium and Bradyrhizobium suggested recent horizontal gene transfer in the groundwater.