Exposure to solute stress affects genome-wide expression but not the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-degrading activity of Sphingomonas sp. strain LH128 in biofilms

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Dec;78(23):8311-20. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02516-12. Epub 2012 Sep 21.


Members of the genus Sphingomonas are important catalysts for removal of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in soil, but their activity can be affected by various stress factors. This study examines the physiological and genome-wide transcription response of the phenanthrene-degrading Sphingomonas sp. strain LH128 in biofilms to solute stress (invoked by 450 mM NaCl solution), either as an acute (4-h) or a chronic (3-day) exposure. The degree of membrane fatty acid saturation was increased as a response to chronic stress. Oxygen consumption in the biofilms and phenanthrene mineralization activities of biofilm cells were, however, not significantly affected after imposing either acute or chronic stress. This finding was in agreement with the transcriptomic data, since genes involved in PAH degradation were not differentially expressed in stressed conditions compared to nonstressed conditions. The transcriptomic data suggest that LH128 adapts to NaCl stress by (i) increasing the expression of genes coping with osmolytic and ionic stress such as biosynthesis of compatible solutes and regulation of ion homeostasis, (ii) increasing the expression of genes involved in general stress response, (iii) changing the expression of general and specific regulatory functions, and (iv) decreasing the expression of protein synthesis such as proteins involved in motility. Differences in gene expression between cells under acute and chronic stress suggest that LH128 goes through changes in genome-wide expression to fully adapt to NaCl stress, without significantly changing phenanthrene degrading activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Osmotic Pressure*
  • Phenanthrenes / metabolism*
  • Saline Solution, Hypertonic / toxicity
  • Sphingomonas / genetics
  • Sphingomonas / metabolism
  • Sphingomonas / physiology*
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Transcriptome


  • Phenanthrenes
  • Saline Solution, Hypertonic
  • phenanthrene

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE38296