A well-characterized experimental system was designed to evaluate the effect of porous media on macroscopic transport coefficients which are used to characterize the migration of bacterial populations. Bacterial density profiles of Pseudomonas putida PRS2000 were determined in the presence and absence of a chemical attractant (3-chlorobenzoate) gradient within sand columns having a narrow distribution of particle diameters. These experimental profiles were compared with theoretical predictions to evaluate the macroscopic transport coefficients. The effective random motility coefficient, used to quantify migration due to a random process in a porous medium, decreased nearly 20-fold as grain size in the columns decreased from 800 to 80 (mu)m. The effective random motility coefficient (mu)(infeff) was related to the random motility coefficient (mu), measured in a bulk aqueous system, according to (mu)(infeff) = ((epsilon)/(tau))(mu) with porosity (epsilon) and tortuosity (tau). Over the times and distances examined in these experiments, bacterial density profiles were unaffected by the presence of an attractant gradient. Theoretical profiles with the aqueous phase value of the chemotactic sensitivity coefficient (used to quantify migration due to a directed process) were consistent with this result and suggested that any chemotactic effect on bacterial migration was below the detection limits of our assay.
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