, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 301-314,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Microbial communities adhering to the obverse and reverse sides of an oil painting on canvas: identification and evaluation of their biodegradative potential

Abstract

In this study, we investigated and compared the microbial communities adhering to the obverse and the reverse sides of an oil painting on canvas exhibiting signs of biodeterioration. Samples showing no visible damage were investigated as controls. Air samples were also analysed, in order to investigate the presence of airborne microorganisms suspended in the indoor atmosphere. The diversity of the cultivable microorganisms adhering to the surface was analysed by molecular techniques, such as RAPD analysis and gene sequencing. DGGE fingerprints derived from DNA directly extracted from canvas material in combination with clone libraries and sequencing were used to evaluate the non-cultivable fraction of the microbial communities associated with the material. By using culture-dependent methods, most of the bacterial strains were found to be common airborne, spore-forming microorganisms and belonged to the phyla Actinobacteria and Firmicutes, whereas culture-independent techniques identified sequenced clones affiliated with members of the phyla Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria. The diversity of fungi was shown to be much lower than that observed for bacteria, and only species of Penicillium spp. could be detected by cultivation techniques. The selected strategy revealed a higher microbial diversity on the obverse than on the reverse side of the painting and the near absence of actively growing microorganisms on areas showing no visible damage. Furthermore, enzymatic activity tests revealed that the most widespread activities involved in biodeterioration were esterase and esterase lipase among the isolated bacterial strains, and esterase and N-acetyl-β-glucosaminidase among fungi strains.