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Molecular analysis of microbial community structures in pristine and contaminated aquifers--Field and laboratory microcosm experiments

Applied and Environmental Microbiology

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Abstract

Molecular Analysis of Microbial Community Structures in Pristine and Contaminated Aquifers: Field and Laboratory Microcosm Experiments

This study used phylogenetic probes in hybridization analysis to (i) determine in situ microbial community structures in regions of a shallow sand aquifer that were oxygen depleted and fuel contaminated (FC) or aerobic and noncontaminated (NC) and (ii) examine alterations in microbial community structures resulting from exposure to toluene and/or electron acceptor supplementation (nitrate). The latter objective was addressed by using the NC and FC aquifer materials for anaerobic microcosm studies in which phylogenetic probe analysis was complemented by microbial activity assays. Domain probe analysis of the aquifer samples showed that the communities were predominantlyBacteria; Eucarya and Archaea were not detectable. At the phylum and subclass levels, the FC and NC aquifer material had similar relative abundance distributions of 43 to 65% β- and γ-Proteobacteria (B+G), 31 to 35% α-Proteobacteria (ALF), 15 to 18% sulfate-reducing bacteria, and 5 to 10% high G+C gram positive bacteria. Compared to that of the NC region, the community structure of the FC material differed mainly in an increased abundance of B+G relative to that of ALF. The microcosm communities were like those of the field samples in that they were predominantly Bacteria (83 to 101%) and lacked detectable Archaea but differed in that a small fraction (2 to 8%) of Eucarya was detected regardless of the treatment applied. The latter result was hypothesized to reflect enrichment of anaerobic protozoa. Addition of nitrate and/or toluene stimulated microbial activity in the microcosms, but only supplementation of toluene alone significantly altered community structures. For the NC material, the dominant subclass shifted from B+G to ALF, while in the FC microcosms 55 to 65% of theBacteria community was no longer identifiable by the phylum or subclass probes used. The latter result suggested that toluene exposure fostered the proliferation of phylotype(s) that were otherwise minor constituents of the FC aquifer community. These studies demonstrated that alterations in aquifer microbial communities resulting from specific anthropogenic perturbances can be inferred from microcosm studies integrating chemical and phylogenetic probe analysis and in the case of hydrocarbon contamination may facilitate the identification of organisms important for in situ biodegradation processes. Further work integrating and coordinating microcosm and field experiments is needed to explore how differences in scale, substrate complexity, and other hydrogeological conditions may affect patterns observed in these systems.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Molecular analysis of microbial community structures in pristine and contaminated aquifers--Field and laboratory microcosm experiments
Series title:
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Volume:
65
Issue:
5
Year Published:
1999
Language:
English
Publisher:
American Society for Microbiology
Contributing office(s):
Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description:
8 p.
First page:
2143
Last page:
2150