Phototrophic utilization of toluene under anoxic conditions by a new strain of Blastochloris sulfoviridis
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The capacity of anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria to utilize aromatic hydrocarbons was investigated in enrichment cultures with toluene. When mineral medium with toluene (provided in an inert carrier phase) was inoculated with activated sludge and incubated under infrared illumination (> 750 nm), a red-to-brownish culture developed. Agar dilution series indicated the dominance of two types of phototrophic bacteria. One type formed red colonies, had rod-shaped cells with budding division, and grew on benzoate but not on toluene. The other type formed yellow-to-brown colonies, had oval cells, and utilized toluene and benzoate. One strain of the latter type, ToP1, was studied in detail. Sequence analysis of the 16S rRNA gene and DNA-DNA hybridization indicated an affiliation of strain ToP1 with the species Blastochloris sulfoviridis, a member of the α-subclass of Proteobacteria. However, the type strain (DSM 729) of Blc. sulfoviridis grew neither on toluene nor on benzoate. Light-dependent consumption of toluene in the presence of carbon dioxide and formation of cell mass by strain ToP1 were demonstrated in quantitative growth experiments. Strain ToP1 is the first phototrophic bacterium shown to utilize an aromatic hydrocarbon. In the supernatant of toluene-grown cultures and in cell-free extracts incubated with toluene and fumarate, the formation of benzylsuccinate was detected. These findings indicate that the phototrophic bacterium activates toluene anaerobically by the same mechanism that has been reported for denitrifying and sulfate-reducing bacteria. The natural abundance of phototrophic bacteria with the capacity for toluene utilization was examined in freshwater habitats. Counting series revealed that up to around 1% (1.8 × 105 cells per gram dry mass of sample) of the photoheterotrophic population cultivable with acetate grew on toluene.
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