Fungal mycelia allow chemotactic dispersal of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria in water-unsaturated systems


E-mail; Tel. (+49) 341 2351316; Fax (+49) 341 2351351.


Contaminant biodegradation in soil is frequently limited by hindered physical access of bacteria to the contaminants. In the frame of the development of novel bioremediation approaches based on ecological principles, we tested the hypothesis that fungal networks facilitate the movement of bacteria by providing continuous liquid films in which gradients of chemoattractants can form and chemotactic swimming can take place. Unlike bacteria, filamentous fungi spread with ease in water-unsaturated soil. In a simple laboratory model of a water-unsaturated environment, we studied the movement of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-degrading Pseudomonas putida PpG7 (NAH7) along a mycelium of Pythium ultimum. Some undirected dispersal was observed in the absence of a chemoattractant or when the non-chemotactic derivative strain P. putida G7.C1 (pHG100) was used. The bacterial movement became fourfold more effective and clearly directed when the chemotactic wild type was used and salicylate was present as a chemoattractant. No dispersal of bacteria was found in the absence of the fungus. These findings point at a role of mycelia for the translocation of chemicals and microorganisms. The results suggest that fungi improve the accessibility of contaminants in water-unsaturated environments.