Applied and environmental microbiology

Anaerobic methyl tert-butyl ether-degrading microorganisms identified in wastewater treatment plant samples by stable isotope probing.

PMID 22327600


Anaerobic methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) degradation potential was investigated in samples from a range of sources. From these 22 experimental variations, only one source (from wastewater treatment plant samples) exhibited MTBE degradation. These microcosms were methanogenic and were subjected to DNA-based stable isotope probing (SIP) targeted to both bacteria and archaea to identify the putative MTBE degraders. For this purpose, DNA was extracted at two time points, subjected to ultracentrifugation, fractioning, and terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP). In addition, bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA gene clone libraries were constructed. The SIP experiments indicated bacteria in the phyla Firmicutes (family Ruminococcaceae) and Alphaproteobacteria (genus Sphingopyxis) were the dominant MTBE degraders. Previous studies have suggested a role for Firmicutes in anaerobic MTBE degradation; however, the putative MTBE-degrading microorganism in the current study is a novel MTBE-degrading phylotype within this phylum. Two archaeal phylotypes (genera Methanosarcina and Methanocorpusculum) were also enriched in the heavy fractions, and these organisms may be responsible for minor amounts of MTBE degradation or for the uptake of metabolites released from the primary MTBE degraders. Currently, limited information exists on the microorganisms able to degrade MTBE under anaerobic conditions. This work represents the first application of DNA-based SIP to identify anaerobic MTBE-degrading microorganisms in laboratory microcosms and therefore provides a valuable set of data to definitively link identity with anaerobic MTBE degradation.