Effect of carbon source addition on toluene biodegradation by an Escherichia coli DH5alpha transconjugant harboring the TOL plasmid.
Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) of plasmids is a naturally occurring phenomenon which could be manipulated for bioremediation applications. Specifically, HGT may prove useful to enhance bioremediation through genetic bioaugmentation. However, because the transfer of a plasmid between donor and recipient cells does not always result in useful functional phenotypes, the conditions under which HGT events result in enhanced degradative capabilities must first be elucidated. The objective of this study was to determine if the addition of alternate carbon substrates could improve toluene degradation in Escherichia coli DH5alpha transconjugants. The addition of glucose (0.5-5 g/L) and Luria-Bertani (LB) broth (10-100%) resulted in enhanced toluene degradation. On average, the toluene degradation rate increased 14.1 (+/-2.1)-fold in the presence of glucose while the maximum increase was 18.4 (+/-1.7)-fold in the presence of 25% LB broth. Gene expression of xyl genes was upregulated in the presence of glucose but not LB broth, which implies different inducing mechanisms by the two types of alternate carbon source. The increased toluene degradation by the addition of glucose or LB broth was persistent over the short-term, suggesting the pulse amendment of an alternative carbon source may be helpful in bioremediation. While the effects of recipient genome GC content and other conditions must still be examined, our results suggest that changes in environmental conditions such as alternate substrate availability may significantly improve the functionality of the transferred phenotypes in HGT and therefore may be an important parameter for genetic bioaugmentation optimization.
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