Understanding the diversity in catabolic potential of microorganisms for the development of bioremediation strategies
- Cite this article as:
- Watanabe, K., Futamata, H. & Harayama, S. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek (2002) 81: 655. doi:10.1023/A:1020534328100
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Molecular ecological approaches have detected diverse microorganisms that occur in response to pollution and bioremediation; however, most of these organisms have not been isolated, and their physiological traits are poorly understood. One important objective in current bioremediation studies would therefore be an assessment of the physiology and functions of the diverse microbial population at a polluted site. Among the parameters relating to the diversity of the microbial catabolic potential, e.g., substrate specificity, inducer specificity, number of catabolic routes and kinetics of catabolic enzymes, our studies have focused on the kinetic diversity of phenol-degrading bacteria. In one example, a kinetic analysis allowed functionally important phenol-degrading bacteria to be identified in activated sludge; this information could be used to improve the performance of phenol-degrading activated sludge. In an analysis of phenol-degrading bacteria present in trichloroethylene (TCE)-contaminated aquifer soil, the kinetic data could be linked to group-specific monitoring of their phenol-hydroxylase genes. The results have suggested that one group of phenol-degrading bacteria can effectively contribute to TCE bioremediation, while other groups work poorly. Based on this information, we have succeeded in developing a high-performance TCE-degrading bioreactor. We suggest that a careful analysis of the diversity of microbial catabolic potential, particularly of the kinetic traits, may facilitate the development of new bioremediation strategies.