The microbial hydrocarbon diet

Jun 11, 2009

Bioremediation of industrial sites and petrochemical spillages often involves finding microbes that can gorge themselves on the toxic chemicals. This leaves behind a non-toxic residue or mineralized material. Writing in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution, researchers in China describe studies of a new microbe that can digest hydrocarbons.

Hong-Qi Wang and Yan-Jun Chen College of Water Sciences, Beijing Normal University, working with Bo-Ya Qin of the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China, have investigated the activity of enzymes from the bacterium Bacillus cereus DQ01, which can digest the hydrocarbon n-hexadecane. The bacterium was initially isolated from the Daqing oil field in North East China where it had evolved the ability to metabolize this chemical.

Bioremediation of hydrocarbons usually involves the application of a cultured bacterium that has been optimized to feed on the specific contaminants, such as particular hydrocarbons. The are cultured first in the presence of sugar or another standard feedstuff in conjunction with a small amount of the pollutant material. Successive generations are fed an increasing proportion of the pollutant until their growth is optimized for digestion of that compound rather than the sugar.

These optimized microbes are applied to the contamination site or spill in large but controlled volumes and digest their way through the pollutant material, multiplying and digesting until no pollutant remains. The byproducts are non-toxic carbon dioxide and water, and mineralized matter.

The team has now found the optimal conditions for the Daqing microbe to feast on , which could point the way to a more effective approach to bioremediation of spill sites.

The key step in the degradation of hydrocarbons normally depends on the presence of a multi-component enzyme system, the team explains. Understanding exactly which components are needed for degradation and the temperature and pH of the soil best suited to the process could help researchers develop the perfect microbial cleanup culture.

The team has now found that enzymes within the microbial cell and in its membrane inner membrane are responsible for degradation of n-hexadecane. The team found that neutral pH and a temperature of 30 Celsius are optimal for the microbe to produce the main degradation enzyme. They also point out that adding a small amount of a surfactant material, rhamnolipid, can also stimulate enzyme production and improve degradation efficiency.

Source: Inderscience Publishers (news : web)

Explore further: Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Microbes in mud flats clean up oil spill chemicals

Mar 30, 2009

Micro-organisms occurring naturally in coastal mudflats have an essential role to play in cleaning up pollution by breaking down petrochemical residues. Research by Dr Efe Aganbi and colleagues from the University of Essex, ...

Oil-eating microbes give clue to ancient energy source

Sep 09, 2008

Microbes that break down oil and petroleum are more diverse than we thought, suggesting hydrocarbons were used as an energy source early in Earth's history, scientists heard today at the Society for General Microbiology's ...

Wakame waste

May 01, 2008

Bacteria that feed on seaweed could help in the disposal of pollutants in the world's oceans, according to a new study by researchers in China and Japan. The discovery is reported in the International Journal of Biotechnology.

Bacteria That Degrade PCBs Identified

Mar 28, 2007

Researchers have identified a group of bacteria that can detoxify a common type of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which have contaminated more than 250 U.S. sites, including river and lake sediments.

Microbe diet key to carbon dioxide release

Jul 31, 2008

As microbes in the soil break down fallen plant matter, a diet "balanced" in nutrients appears to help control soil fertility and the normal release of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Recommended for you

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

For resetting circadian rhythms, neural cooperation is key

Apr 17, 2014

Fruit flies are pretty predictable when it comes to scheduling their days, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and rest times in between. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th h ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Jun 11, 2009
I've heard that mycoremediation is a more effective and productive method than bacterial bioremediation, particularly when it comes to cleanup of oil and oil-derived chemicals. For a bit more info:

http://en.wikiped...ediation

http://www.fungi....ova.html
deatopmg
5 / 5 (1) Jun 11, 2009
Search for; "TED" and "Paul Stamets", and watch how oyster mushroom spawn cleans up heavy hydrocarbon spills w/o any pre-conditioning. returns the soil to better than before contamination condition.
DeistUntilTheDayIDie
not rated yet Aug 02, 2009
"The bacterium was initially isolated from the Daqing oil field in North East China where it had evolved the ability to metabolize this chemical."

It's sad to see people still don't understand evolution. The bacterium didn't evolve to live in the oil, it evolved the ability to survive in the oil, and so we find them living there. If they had actually "evolved to live there" we would be praising LeMark for his theory that the Giraffe evolved an elongated neck to reach higher branches. Now conditioning is a whole different matter, thats evidence of evolution at its finest. Those that survive the conditioning are the fittest.

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.