photosmynthesis's Blog

The Microbial Jungle….
October 1, 2010, 3:01 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

So, one phenomenon that I see a lot of research that interest me deals with microbial biofilms.  These assemblages of organisms, predominantly bacteria, are fascinating.  The reduced functions of these individuals are overcome thought organization of a community, smaller microenvironments, created though the anabolic/catabolic activities of other participants (Paerl and Pinckney 1996) .  This microbial facilitation can allow for presence of others which could not exist otherwise, for example, the existence of nitrogen fixing or reducing organisms living in an oxygenated environment. The coupling of these organism with another oxygen-consuming bacteria allows for the existence of a anoxic space within the film.

The mechanism at play here first seems have something to do with the separation of biochemical reactions withing different cells. Often times, each type of bacteria within the film is only capable of a single reaction to derive its energy source, but the biproduct of that reaction can facilitate the occurrance of others.   Compartmentalization is found in mutlitcelluar organims as well, but the microbes are able to work directly on the inorganic substrates of the environment, which presents them as a very useful subject for human manipulation and biomimetric innovation.

The study and understanding of these films, the organisms involved, the sequence of formation, and the stability of these communities, could yield many advantages in our manufacturing industries.  For example degredation of environmental pollutants (Macedo et al. 2007), or water treatment and reclaimation (Lydmark et al. 2007) are already areas where biofilms have potential to be used.  As we develop our abilities to engineer and maintain these microbial consortia many more uses will be discovered .  I find these aggregations fascinating and are akin to the forests of the tropics.  Like the forest, many prescious medicines and product lie within, if we can only take the time to look and see what is there.


Lydmark P, Almstrand R, Samuelsson K, Mattsson A, Sörensson F, Lindgren P.E.,  Hermansson M, (2007) Effects of environmental conditions on the nitrifying population dynamics in a pilot wastewater
treatment plant Environmental Microbiology (2007) 9(9), 2220–2233

Macedo A.J., Timmis K.N., Abraham W.R.(2007) Widespread capacity to metabolize polychlorinated biphenyls by diverse microbial communities in soils with no significant exposure to PCB contamination. Environmental Microbiology (2007) 9(8), 1890–1897

Paerl H.W., Pinckney J.L. (1996) A Mini-review of Microbial Consortia: Their Roles in Aquatic
Production and Biogeochemical Cycling. Microbial Ecology 31:225-247


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