Temporal change in culturable phenanthrene degraders in response to long-term exposure to phenanthrene in a soil column system

Adria A. Bodour, Jiann Ming Wang, Mark L. Brusseau, Raina M. Maier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Widespread environmental contamination by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) has led to increased interest in the use of natural attenuation as a clean-up strategy. However, few bioremediation studies have investigated the behaviour of the indigenous PAH-degrading community after long-term exposure to a PAH. In this study, a column packed with sandy loam soil was exposed to a solution saturated with phenanthrene (≈ 1.2 mg 1-1) for a 6-month period to examine the temporal response of the indigenous phenanthrene-degrading community. Initial soil, effluent, and final soil samples were collected and analysed for phenanthrene concentration and culturable phenanthrene degraders. Phenanthrene-degrading isolates were grouped by colony morphology. For each unique group, 16S rDNA polymerase chain reaction was performed, and then sequencing analysis was used to identify the isolate at the genus level. Twenty-five phenanthrene-degrading isolates, potentially representing 19 genera, were obtained from this analysis. Of these, eight genera have not been reported previously to degrade phenanthrene, including Afipia, Janthinobacterium, Leptothrix, Massilia, Methylobacterium, Rhizobium, Sinorhizobium and Thiobacillus. Results indicate that the dominant phenanthrene-degrading population changed over the course of this 6-month experiment. Specifically, the isolates obtained initially from the soil were not subsequently found in either effluent samples or the soil at the end of the experiment. Furthermore, several isolates that were found in the soil at the end of the experiment were not observed in the soil initially or in the effluent samples. This study confirms earlier findings indicating that a diverse community participates in phenanthrene degradation in the environment, and also suggests that the composition of this community is temporally variable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)888-895
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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