Arsenic contamination in groundwater has caused severe health problems throughout the world. Developing cost-effective processes for arsenic removal is an emerging issue. Because As(III) is predominant in groundwater and is more difficult to remove than As(V) is, oxidation of As(III) to As(V) is necessary to improve overall arsenic removal. This study was undertaken to enrich arsenite oxidizing bacteria under autotrophic conditions and to isolate and characterize facultative chemolithoautotrophic arsenite oxidizing bacteria (CAOs) that can oxidize As(III) effectively to As(V). An enrichment culture which adapted wide As(III) concentrations and completely oxidized 12 mM As(III) within 4 days under autotrophic conditions was established and maintained. Among 10 isolated strains, 6 strains, B1, B2, C, D, E1 and E2 belonging to β-Proteobacteria, were facultative CAOs and contained aoxB genes encoding the arsenite oxidase large subunit. Furthermore, they displayed various As(III) oxidation capabilities: B1, B2, E1 and E2 efficiently oxidized 1–10 mM As(III). The others showed efficient oxidation at 1–5 mM As(III), suggesting the coexistence of facultative CAOs with various As(III) oxidation capabilities in the enrichment. These results suggest that constructed enrichment and strains B1, B2, E1 and E2 can be useful for the bioremediation of arsenic-contaminated groundwater.

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