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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Naturally occurring bacteria similar to the methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE)-degrading strain PM1 are present in MTBE-contaminated groundwater.

Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is a widespread groundwater contaminant that does not respond well to conventional treatment technologies. Growing evidence indicates that microbial communities indigenous to groundwater can degrade MTBE under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Although pure cultures of microorganisms able to degrade or cometabolize MTBE have been reported, to date the specific organisms responsible for MTBE degradation in various field studies have not be identified. We report that DNA sequences almost identical (99% homology) to those of strain PM1, originally isolated from a biofilter in southern California, are naturally occurring in an MTBE-polluted aquifer in Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), Lompoc, California. Cell densities of native PM1 (measured by TaqMan quantitative PCR) in VAFB groundwater samples ranged from below the detection limit (in anaerobic sites) to 10(3) to 10(4) cells/ml (in oxygen-amended sites). In groundwater from anaerobic or aerobic sites incubated in microcosms spiked with 10 microg of MTBE/liter, densities of native PM1 increased to approximately 10(5) cells/ml. Native PM1 densities also increased during incubation of VAFB sediments during MTBE degradation. In controlled field plots amended with oxygen, artificially increasing the MTBE concentration was followed by an increase in the in situ native PM1 cell density. This is the first reported relationship between in situ MTBE biodegradation and densities of MTBE-degrading bacteria by quantitative molecular methods.[1]


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