Exposure of plasmid recombinant microorganisms to an open environment, either inadvertently or intentionally, requires research into those fundamental processes that govern plasmid retention, transfer and expression. In the open environment, a majority of the microbial activity occurs associated with an interface, within thin biological layers consisting of cells and their insoluble extracellular polymer, layers known as biofilms. Current toxic wastewater or wastegas treatment reactors exploit bacterial biofilm systems for certain system operating advantages.
Using recombinant bacteria within a biofilm reactor to degrade xenobiotic wastes requires finding a suitable host to harbor and express the desired plasmid phenotype. Suitable host characteristics include: the ability to produce copious amounts of biofilm, resistance to waste-related injury and toxicity, and the ability to retain and express the desired plasmid during long term operation. This paper reports on a laboratory evaluation of factors governing plasmid retention and the expression of trichloroethene (TCE) degradative capacity in both suspended and biofilm cultures.