Lime manufacture in the UK has resulted in the generation of a number of alkaline sites (>pH 11.0) with complex indigenous microbial populations. Within the present study, retrievable cotton samples were used to investigate the fate of cellulose, the primary carbon source, within three sites aged from ≈25 to 140 years. Following 3 months incubation in situ, biofilms had formed on all cotton samples in these extreme pH conditions; with matrices comprised of carbohydrates, proteins, lipids and eDNA. Biofilms from the older sites contained greater amounts of eDNA, a structural component that aids the production of a denser biofilm. The age of the sites correlated with a shift from polysaccharides composed of β 1,4 and β 1,3 linked sugars to those composed of pyranosyl sugars within the older sites. These changes were reflected in the active biofilm communities which shifted from being Clostridiales dominated in the youngest site to Proteobacteria dominated in the older sites. The study demonstrates that the microbial communities resident in anthropogenic alkaline sites are able to form biofilms at pH values > pH 11.0 and that these biofilms evolve toward Proteobacteria dominated communities employing eDNA and pyranosyl sugar based polysaccharides to build the biofilm matrix.
Charles, C., Rout, S., Wormald, R., Laws, A., Jackson, B. R., Boxall, S. A., & Humphreys, P. (2019). In-Situ Biofilm Formation in Hyper Alkaline Environments. Geomicrobiology Journal, 36(5), 405-411. https://doi.org/10.1080/01490451.2018.1564803