Methanotrophic bacteria in the rhizosphere of trichloroethylene-degrading plants

Robin L. Brigmon, T. A. Anderson, C. B. Fliermans

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17 Scopus citations


The presence and density of methanotrophic bacteria has been shown to play an important role in the bioremediation of trichloroethylene (TCE). This article describes the methanotrophic bacterial densities in rhizosphere soils from two areas of the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina. A direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) technique was evaluated to determine the presence of methanotrophic bacteria in roots and rhizospheres from vascular plants. The first site, the Miscellaneous Chemical Basin (MCB), was contaminated with a mixture of chemicals, including chlorinated solvents. The second site will be potentially affected by outcropping of TCE-contaminated groundwater. Significantly higher numbers of methanotrophic bacteria were observed with DFA in rhizosphere soils and on roots of Lespedeza cuneata and Pinus taeda (that previously showed higher rates of 14C-TCE mineralization) compared with nonvegetated soils. In addition, viable and heterotrophic microbial counts were consistently higher in rhizosphere soils and on plant roots compared with nonvegetated soils. Therefore, the presence of these plant species may enhance 14C-TCE mineralization by selectively increasing the microbial population in the root zone. Methanotrophic bacteria were directly observed by DFA in soils, on the surface of root hairs, within plant roots, and in higher densities associated with mycorrhizal fungi. These experiments provide further evidence that specific types of bacterial interactions with vegetation in the rhizosphere may play an important role in remediation of TCE-contaminated soils and groundwater.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-253
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Phytoremediation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999


  • Methanotrophic bacteria
  • Rhizosphere soils
  • Trichloroethylene


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