Taking the fungal highway: Mobilization of pollutant-degrading bacteria by fungi
The capacity of fungi to serve as vectors for the dispersion of pollutant-degrading bacteria was analyzed in laboratory model systems mimicking water-saturated (agar surfaces) and unsaturated soil environments (glass-bead-filled columns). Two common soil fungi (Fusarium oxysporum and Rhexocercosporidium sp.) forming hydrophilic and hydrophobic mycelia, respectively, and three polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon degrading bacteria (Achromobacter sp. SKI, Mycobacterium frederiksbergense LB501TG, and Sphingomonas sp. L138) were selected based on the absence of mutual antagonistic effects. It was shown that fungal hyphae act as vectors for bacterial transport with mobilization strongly depending on the specific microorganisms chosen: The motile strain Achromobacter sp. SKI was most efficiently spread along hyphae of hydrophilic F oxysporum in both model systems with transport velocities of up to 1 cm d(-1), whereas no dispersion of the two nonmotile strains was observed in the presence of F oxysporum. By contrast, none of the bacteria was mobilized along the hydrophobic mycelia of Rhexocercosporidium sp. growing on agar surfaces. In column experiments however, strain SKI was mobilized by Rhexocercosporidium sp. It is hypothesized that bacteria may move by their intrinsic motility through continuous (physiological) liquid films forming around fungal hyphae. The results of this study suggest that the specific stimulation of indigenous fungi may be a strategy to mobilize pollutant-degrading bacteria leading to their homogenization in polluted soil thereby improving bioremediation.