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Biofilms of As(III)-oxidising bacteria: formation and activity studies for bioremediation process development


The formation and activity of an As(III)-oxidising biofilm in a bioreactor, using pozzolana as bacterial growth support, was studied for the purpose of optimising fixed-bed bioreactors for bioremediation. After 60 days of continuous functioning with an As(III)-contaminated effluent, the active biofilm was found to be located mainly near the inflow rather than homogeneously distributed. Biofilm development by the CAsO1 bacterial consortium and by Thiomonas arsenivorans was then studied both on polystyrene microplates and on pozzolana. Extra-cellular polymeric substances (EPS) and yeast extract were found to enhance bacteria attachment, and yeast extract also appears to increase the kinetics of biofilm formation. Analysis of proteins, sugars, lipids and uronic acids indicate that sugars were the main EPS components. The specific As(III)-oxidase activity of T. arsenivorans was higher (by ninefold) for planktonic cells than for sessile ones and was induced by As(III). All the results suggest that the biofilm structure is a physical barrier decreasing As(III) access to sessile cells and thus to As(III)-oxidase activity induction. The efficiency of fixed-bed reactors for the bioremediation of arsenic-contaminated waters can be thus optimised by controlling different factors such as temperature and EPS addition and/or synthesis to increase biofilm density and activity.

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The work was carried out in the framework of the BRGM contribution to the French “Réseau National Biofilm”, Research Group GDR no. 2909 (Métabolisme de l’arsenic chez les prokaryotes: de la résistance à la détoxication) and received financial support from the BRGM Research Division (BIOPROC/Biofilm and Enzenv projects, Contribution no. 05059). Part of the work (bioreactor experiments) was also supported by the AsTHIOX RITEAU project (Decision no. 03V320). We would also like to thank Marie-Claire Lett from the University of Strasbourg (ULP, France) and Pascal Piveteau and Sylvain Challan Belval from ENSBANA, Dijon (France) for technical and scientific discussions.

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Correspondence to F. Garrido.

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Michel, C., Jean, M., Coulon, S. et al. Biofilms of As(III)-oxidising bacteria: formation and activity studies for bioremediation process development. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 77, 457–467 (2007).

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  • Thiomonas arsenivorans
  • As(III)-oxidase
  • Biofilm
  • EPS
  • Bioremediation
  • Fixed-bed bioreactor