The biodegradation of hexadecane by five biosurfactant-producing bacterial strains (Pseudomonas aeruginosa UG2, Acinetobacter calcoaceticus RAG1, Rhodococcus erythropolis DSM 43066, R. erythropolis ATCC 19558, and strain BCG112) was determined in the presence and absence of exogenously added biosurfactants. The degradation of hexadecane by P. aeruginosa was stimulated only by the rhamnolipid biosurfactant produced by the same organism. This rhamnolipid did not stimulate the biodegradation of hexadecane by the four other strains to the same extent, nor was degradation of hexadecane by these strains stimulated by addition of their own biosurfactants. This suggests that P. aeruginosa has a mode of hexadecane uptake different from those of the other organisms. Rhamnolipid also enhanced the rate of epoxidation of the aliphatic hydrocarbon α,ω-tetradecadiene by a cell suspension of P. aeruginosa. Furthermore, the uptake of the hydrophobic probe 1-naphthylphenylamine by cells of P. aeruginosa was enhanced by rhamnolipid, as indicated by stopped-flow fluorescence experiments. Rhamnolipid did not stimulate the uptake rate of this probe in de-energized cells. These results indicate that an energy-dependent system is present in P. aeruginosa strain UG2 that mediates fast uptake of hydrophobic compounds in the presence of rhamnolipid.
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