Synergistic growth of two members from a mixed microbial consortium growing on biphenyl

Annette D. Davison*, Heidi Csellner, Peter Karuso, Duncan A. Veal

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    A stable nine-membered aerobic bacterial consortium (BSEN-2) growing on biphenyl as the sole carbon and energy source was isolated from a polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminated soil. Characterisation of the members, strains BPSI-1 to 9, revealed three principal genera, Pseudomonas, Sphingomonas and Alcaligenes. Phenotypic analysis based on standard microbiological tests and Biolog identification, showed close relationship between community members with the exception of Sphingomonas paucimobilis strain BPSI-3. Some clusters revealed relationships unrelated to genus groupings. Strain BPSI-3 produced a bright yellow water soluble compound from biphenyl having absorption maxima at 412 and 337 nm at neutral pH. This is similar, but not identical, to those results reported for muconic semialdehydes, cleavage products of biphenyl and other aromatic compounds. Only four of the nine isolates, BPSI-2, 3, 4 and 7, were capable of growth on biphenyl as sole carbon and energy source. Two isolates, Alcaligenes faecalis type II strain BPSI-2 and S. paucimobilis strain BPSI-3, were isolated together and were difficult to separate into pure cultures. Growth studies in liquid culture showed that a co-culture of these two achieved a specific growth rate (μ) approximately twice as high as strain BPSI-2 and four times that of BPSI-3. Both strains grew equally well on benzoate with no significant difference in their specific growth rates. When compared to the original mixed culture, BSEN-2, the co-culture achieved 39% greater biomass and a specific growth rate twice as high. In the co-culture, the yellow colour seen with pure cultures of BPSI-3 was not observed. BPSI-2 was found to be able to utilise the yellow metabolites more effectively than BPSI-3. A model for the interaction of these two strains, based on the utilisation of biphenyl catabolites and degradation at the genetic level, has been proposed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)133-146
    Number of pages14
    JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1994


    • Bioremediation
    • Biphenyl degradation
    • Mixed microbial community
    • Synergism


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