The adhesion to inert solid surfaces was explored as a novel approach for the enrichment of previously uncultured bacteria from natural microbial communities. Enrichments on solid steel, glass and synthetic polymeric surfaces were established using samples from five freshwater lakes, a marine microbial mat and an alpine soil, and were subsequently analysed by molecular fingerprinting and sequencing of their 16S rRNA gene fragments. The majority of the enriched phylotypes grouped with the Alphaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria or Bacteroidetes and in several cases were related to typical biofilm-forming species and genera. Most enrichments were most closely related to previously uncultured phylotypes and none had previously been cultivated from the original environments even when applying improved high throughput liquid cultivation techniques. Of the 13 phylotypes enriched from freshwater samples, seven were previously unknown, three matched so-far uncultured environmental clones, and three were identical to previously cultivated bacteria. Of the 17 phylotypes recovered from soil, 12 were previously unknown with five of these phylotypes representing novel genera, whereas five phylotypes were identical to previously cultured soil bacteria. The feasibility of the biofilm-enrichment approach was exemplified by the successful isolation of a not-yet cultured Betaproteobacterium that constituted a discernible component of the alpine soil microbial community in situ and exhibited only 93% similarity to its closest cultured relative. Based on these results, cultivation on solid surfaces represents a promising approach to recover isolates that have so far escaped cultivation as suspended cultures in liquid media.
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