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Benzene degradation in a denitrifying biofilm reactor: activity and microbial community composition

van der Waals, Marcelle J., Atashgahi, Siavash, da Rocha, Ulisses Nunes, van der Zaan, Bas M., Smidt, Hauke, Gerritse, Jan
Applied microbiology and biotechnology 2017 v.101 no.12 pp. 5175-5188
Peptococcaceae, bacteria, benzene, benzoic acid, biodegradation, biofilm, biomass, carboxylation, community structure, denitrification, filtration, genes, metabolites, microbial communities, nitrates, ribosomal RNA, risk
Benzene is an aromatic compound and harmful for the environment. Biodegradation of benzene can reduce the toxicological risk after accidental or controlled release of this chemical in the environment. In this study, we further characterized an anaerobic continuous biofilm culture grown for more than 14 years on benzene with nitrate as electron acceptor. We determined steady state degradation rates, microbial community composition dynamics in the biofilm, and the initial anaerobic benzene degradation reactions. Benzene was degraded at a rate of 0.15 μmol/mg protein/day and a first-order rate constant of 3.04/day which was fourfold higher than rates reported previously. Bacteria belonging to the Peptococcaceae were found to play an important role in this anaerobic benzene-degrading biofilm culture, but also members of the Anaerolineaceae were predicted to be involved in benzene degradation or benzene metabolite degradation based on Illumina MiSeq analysis of 16S ribosomal RNA genes. Biomass retention in the reactor using a filtration finger resulted in reduction of benzene degradation capacity. Detection of the benzene carboxylase encoding gene, abcA, and benzoic acid in the culture vessel indicated that benzene degradation proceeds through an initial carboxylation step.