Changes in adenylate energy charge (EC(A)) and in total adenine nucleotides (A(T)) and DNA content (both normalized to the abundance of free- living, groundwater bacteria) in response to carbon loading were determined for a laboratory-grown culture and for a contaminated aquifer. The latter study involved a 3-km-long transect through a contaminant plume resulting from continued on-land discharge of secondary sewage to a shallow, sandy aquifer on Cape Cod, Mass. With the exception of the most contaminated groundwater immediately downgradient from the contaminant source, DNA and adenylate levels correlated strongly with bacterial abundance and decreased exponentially with increasing distance downgradient. EC(A)s (0.53 to 0.60) and the ratios of ATP to DNA (0.001 to 0.003) were consistently low, suggesting that the unattached bacteria in this groundwater study are metabolically stressed, despite any eutrophication that might have occurred. Elevated EC(A)s (up to 0.74) were observed in glucose-amended groundwater, confirming that the metabolic state of this microbial community could be altered. In general, per-bacterium DNA and ATP contents were approximately twofold higher in the plume than in surrounding groundwater, although EC(A) and per-bacterium levels of A(T) differed little in the plume and the surrounding uncontaminated groundwater. However, per-bacterium levels of DNA and A(T) varied six- and threefold, respectively, during a 6-h period of decreasing growth rate for an unidentified pseudomonad isolated from contaminated groundwater and grown in batch culture. These data suggest that the DNA content of groundwater bacteria may be more sensitive than their A(T) to the degree of carbon loading, which may have significant ramifications in the use of nucleic acids and adenine nucleotides for estimating the metabolic status of bacterial communities within more highly contaminated aquifers.
Additional publication details
Effect of treated-sewage contamination upon bacterial energy charge, adenine nucleotides, and DNA content in a sandy aquifer on cape cod