In natural environments contaminated by recalcitrant organic pollutants, efficient biodegradation of such pollutants has been suggested to occur through the cooperation of different bacterial species. A phenanthrene-degrading bacterial consortium, MixEPa4, from polluted soil was previously shown to include a phenanthrene-degrading strain, Mycobacterium sp. EPa45, and a non-polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH)-degrading strain, Burkholderia sp. Bcrs1W. In this study, we show that addition of phenanthrene to rich liquid medium resulted in the transient growth arrest of EPa45 during its degradation of phenanthrene. RNA-sequencing analysis of the growth-arrested cells showed the phenanthrene-dependent induction of genes that were predicted to be involved in the catabolism of this compound, and many other cell systems, such as a ferric iron-uptake, were up-regulated, implying iron deficiency of the cells. This negative effect of phenanthrene became much more apparent when using phenanthrene-containing minimal agar medium; colony formation of EPa45 on such agar was significantly inhibited in the presence of phenanthrene and its intermediate degradation products. However, growth inhibition was suppressed by the co-residence of viable Bcrs1W cells. Various Gram-negative bacterial strains, including the three other strains from MixEPa4, also exhibited varying degrees of suppression of the growth inhibition effect on EPa45, strongly suggesting that this effect is not strain-specific. Growth inhibition of EPa45 was also observed by other PAHs, biphenyl and naphthalene, and these two compounds and phenanthrene also inhibited the growth of another mycobacterial strain, M. vanbaalenii PYR-1, that can use them as carbon sources. These phenomena of growth inhibition were also suppressed by Bcrs1W. Our findings suggest that, in natural environments, various non-PAH-degrading bacterial strains play potentially important roles in the facilitation of PAH degradation by the co-residing mycobacteria.
- Growth inhibition
- Phenanthrene degradation
- Suppression of growth inhibition