Ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE) is a gasoline additive that became an important aquifer pollutant. The information about natural bacterial consortia with a capacity for complete ETBE degradation is limited. Here we assess the taxonomical composition of bacterial communities and diversity of the ethB
gene (involved in ETBE biodegradation) in ETBE-enrichment cultures that were established from a gasoline-polluted aquifer, either from anoxic ETBE-polluted plume water (PW), or from an upstream non-polluted water (UW). We used a 16S rRNA microarray, and 16S rRNA and ethB
gene sequencing. Despite the dissimilar initial chemical conditions and microbial composition, ETBE-degrading consortia were obtained from both PW and UW. The composition of ETBE-enrichment cultures was distinct from their initial water samples, reflecting the importance of the rare biosphere as a reservoir of potential ETBE degraders. No convergence was observed between the enrichment cultures originating from UW and PW, which were dominated by Mesorhizobium
, respectively, indicating that distinct consortia with the same functional properties may be present at one site. Conserved ethB
genes were evidenced in both PW and UW ETBE-enrichment cultures and in PW water. Our results suggest that the presence of ethB
genes rather than the taxonomical composition of in situ bacterial communities indicate the potential for the ETBE degradation at a given site.
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