Production of rhamnolipids and diesel oil degradation by bacteria isolated from soil contaminated by petroleum

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Biosurfactants are microbial secondary metabolites. The most studied are rhamnolipids, which decrease the surface tension and have emulsifying capacity. In this study, the production of biosurfactants, with emphasis on rhamnolipids, and diesel oil degradation by 18 strains of bacteria isolated from waste landfill soil contaminated by petroleum was analyzed. Among the studied bacteria, gram-positive endospore forming rods (39%), gram positive rods without endospores (17%), and gram-negative rods (44%) were found. The following methods were used to test for biosurfactant production: oil spreading, emulsification, and hemolytic activity. All strains showed the ability to disperse the diesel oil, while 77% and 44% of the strains showed hemolysis and emulsification of diesel oil, respectively. Rhamnolipids production was observed in four strains that were classified on the basis of the 16S rRNA sequences as Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Only those strains showed the rhlAB gene involved in rhamnolipids synthesis, and antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli, P. aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, Erwinia carotovora, and Ralstonia solanacearum. The highest production of rhamnolipids was 565.7 mg/L observed in mineral medium containing olive oil (pH 8). With regard to the capacity to degrade diesel oil, it was observed that 7 strains were positive in reduction of the dye 2,6-dichlorophenolindophenol (2,6-DCPIP) while 16 had the gene alkane mono-oxygenase (alkB), and the producers of rhamnolipids were positive in both tests. Several bacterial strains have shown high potential to be explored further for bioremediation purposes due to their simultaneous ability to emulsify, disperse, and degrade diesel oil.

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