Isolate PM1 populations are dominant and novel methyl tert-butyl ether-degrading bacteria in compost biofilter enrichments

Mary Ann Bruns, Jessica R. Hanson, Joel Mefford, Kate M. Scow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The gasoline additive MTBE, methyl tert-butyl ether, is a widespread and persistent groundwater contaminant. MTBE undergoes rapid mineralization as the sole carbon and energy source of bacterial strain PM1, isolated from an enrichment culture of compost biofilter material. In this report, we describe the results of microbial community DNA profiling to assess the relative dominance of isolate PM1 and other bacterial strains cultured from the compost enrichment. Three polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based profiling approaches were evaluated: Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis of 230 bp 16S rDNA fragments; thermal gradient gel electrophoresis (TGGE) analysis of 575 bp 16S rDNA fragments; and non-denaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of 300-1500 bp fragments containing 16S/23S ribosomal intergenic transcribed spacer (ITS) regions. Whereas all three DNA profiling approaches indicated that PM1-like bands predominated in mixtures from MTBE-grown enrichments, ITS profiling provided the most abundant and specific sequence data to confirm strain PM's presence in the enrichment. Moreover, ITS profiling did not produce non-specific PCR products that were observed with T/DGGE. A further advantage of ITS community profiling over other methods requiring restriction digestion (e.g. terminal restriction fragment length polymorphisms) was that it did not require an additional digestion step or the use of automated sequencing equipment. ITS bands, excised from similar locations in profiles of the enrichment and PM1 pure culture, were 99.9% identical across 750 16S rDNA positions and 100% identical across 691 spacer positions. BLAST comparisons of nearly full-length 16S rDNA sequences showed 96% similarity between isolate PM1 and representatives of at least four different genera in the Leptothrix subgroup of the β-Proteobacteria (Aquabacterium, Leptothrix, Rubrivivax and Ideonella). Maximum likelihood and parsimony analyses of 1249 nucleotide positions supported isolate PM1's position in a separate lineage within the Leptothrix subgroup.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-225
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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