Biodegradation of Undefined Complex Mixtures

M. Frenzel2, S.J. Rowland2, S.K. Burton1 and H.M. Lappin-Scott1


School of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Hatherly Laboratories, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, U.K.
2 Petroleum & Environmental Geochemistry Group, SEOES, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA, U.K.

Presented at: 158th Meeting of the Society for General Microbiology, Warwick, U.K., 36 April 2006.

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Brief Summary

Cyclohexylalkyltetralins are proposed to be appropriate model compounds for components of aromatic undefined complex mixtures (UCMs). UCMs are dominant features of environmental samples contaminated with weathered crude oils and are considered to be resistant to microbial degradation. A recent estimate has suggested that whole oil UCMs may contain around 250,000 mostly unidentified compounds. 6-cyclohexyltetralin was synthesized to high purity for use in biodegradation studies. Optimization of methods to monitor the biodegradation of cyclohexylalkyltetralins has been successfully undertaken. Sediment samples were collected from sites around the UK with a known history of long-term hydrocarbon pollution, including industrial sites and natural sources of hydrocarbons. Enrichment cultures were established in minimal salts medium containing 6-cyclohexyltetralin. Degradation was monitored over time and quantified using gas chromatography (GCFID). DNA extraction, PCR and DGGE of the 16S rRNA gene was used to monitor changes in the microbial community over the enrichment period. Preliminary observations suggest degradation of the compound and DNA has successfully been extracted from enrichments from four different sample sites. This holds promise for future remediation of sites contaminated with such chemicals.

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