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Degradation Of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons At Low Temperature Under Aerobic And Nitrate-Reducing Conditions In Enrichment Cultures From Northern Soils

Mikael Eriksson, Erik Sodersten, Zhongtang Yu, Gunnel Dalhammar, William W. Mohn

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ABSTRACT Thepotential for biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)at low temperature and under anaerobic conditions is not wellunderstood, but such biodegradation would be very useful forremediation of polluted sites. Biodegradation of a mixture of 11different PAHs with two to five aromatic rings, each at a concentrationof 10 μg/ml, was studied in enrichment cultures inoculated withsamples of four northern soils. Under aerobic conditions, lowtemperature severely limited PAH biodegradation. After 90 days, aerobiccultures at 20°C removed 52 to 88% of the PAHs. The mostextensive PAH degradation under aerobic conditions at 7°C,53% removal, occurred in a culture from creosote-contaminatedsoil. Low temperature did not substantially limit PAH biodegradationunder nitrate-reducing conditions. Under nitrate-reducing conditions,naphthalene, 2-methylnaphthalene, fluorene, and phenanthrene weredegraded. The most extensive PAH degradation under nitrate-reducingconditions at 7°C, 39% removal, occurred in a culturefrom fuel-contaminated Arctic soil. In separate transfer cultures fromthe above Arctic soil, incubated anaerobically at 7°C, removalof 2-methylnaphthalene and fluorene was stoichiometrically coupled tonitrate removal. Ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis suggested thatenrichment resulted in a few predominant bacterial populations,including members of the genera Acidovorax,Bordetella, Pseudomonas, Sphingomonas, andVariovorax. Predominant populations from different soils oftenincluded phylotypes with nearly identical partial 16S rRNA genesequences (i.e., same genus) but never included phylotypes withidentical ribosomal intergenic spacers (i.e., different species orsubspecies). The composition of the enriched communities appeared to bemore affected by presence of oxygen, than by temperature or source oftheinoculum.