Biofilms in Bioremediation

Robert Preston rapr at med.pitt.edu
Fri Jan 24 09:37:11 EST 1997

In article <5c8bru$nck at mserv1.dl.ac.uk>, Jan Kreft
<Jan.Ulrich.Kreft at uni-konstanz.de> wrote:

> >Question is: what opportunities are out there to *manipulate the cells*
> >in such a way that biotransformation rates can be enhanced by increasing
> >bioavailability?xpensive chemicals) and be less-intrusive? [...]
> We should take an evolutionary perspective and ask ourselves: As
> biosurfactant production is possible, why don't bacteria do it under
> particular bioremediation conditions? It seems not to pay. Biosurfactant
> production is an investment that must pay......If it does pay, it is very 
> likely that natural selection does all the work. 
here's a non-ecologist's two cents worth:  I appreciate Jan's attempt at an
evolutionary perspective, but I would suggest that few ideas in current
evolutionary theory are carved in stone.  If biosurfactant production pays
in some ecological context "similar to" that of an existing community, it is 
not logically necessary that there would be a selective path to that paying
context that could occur within the time constraints of human economic 
requirements.  Evolutionary local stability minima could impede the facile
selection of paying conditions.  One crude way to assist natural selection in
finding paying conditions would be to throw a dose of some (short-lived!!!)
mutagen into the biofilm community to blast away at local stabilities.
A very crude analogy from conventional microbiology is the use of mutagens 
to assist nature in arriving at relatively rare mutant forms within the 
economic constraints of one or two petri-dishfuls of cells instead of a few 
thousand dishfuls.  This might or might not work with biofilm communities
but the point is that it seems unnecessarily limiting to assume that natural 
selection could or would arrive at paying conditions on a human economic 
time scale (bioremediation efforts necessarily involve human time scales,
both in the generation and cleanup of the mess).

Robert A. Preston, Ph.D.
Center for Genomic Sciences
Dept. of Pathology
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh PA
rapr at med.pitt.edu

rapr at med.pitt.edu

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