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Diversity of Five Anaerobic Toluene-Degrading Microbial Communities Investigated Using Stable Isotope Probing

Sun, Weimin, Cupples, Alison M.
Applied and environmental microbiology 2012 v.78 no.4 pp. 972-980
Comamonadaceae, Desulfobulbaceae, Desulfosporosinus, Syntrophobacteraceae, Thauera, agricultural soils, carbon, gene targeting, genes, microbial communities, microorganisms, nitrates, polluted soils, polymerase chain reaction, sludge, soil treatment, stable isotopes, toluene
Time-series DNA-stable isotope probing (SIP) was used to identify the microbes assimilating carbon from [13C]toluene under nitrate- or sulfate-amended conditions in a range of inoculum sources, including uncontaminated and contaminated soil and wastewater treatment samples. In all, five different phylotypes were found to be responsible for toluene degradation, and these included previously identified toluene degraders as well as novel toluene-degrading microorganisms. In microcosms constructed from granular sludge and amended with nitrate, the putative toluene degraders were classified in the genus Thauera, whereas in nitrate-amended microcosms constructed from a different source (agricultural soil), microorganisms in the family Comamonadaceae (genus unclassified) were the key putative degraders. In one set of sulfate-amended microcosms (agricultural soil), the putative toluene degraders were identified as belonging to the class Clostridia (genus Desulfosporosinus), while in other sulfate-amended microcosms, the putative degraders were in the class Deltaproteobacteria, within the family Syntrophobacteraceae (digester sludge) or Desulfobulbaceae (contaminated soil) (genus unclassified for both). Partial benzylsuccinate synthase gene (bssA, the functional gene for anaerobic toluene degradation) sequences were obtained for some samples, and quantitative PCR targeting this gene, along with SIP, was further used to confirm anaerobic toluene degradation by the identified species. The study illustrates the diversity of toluene degraders across different environments and highlights the utility of ribosomal and functional gene-based SIP for linking function with identity in microbial communities.