Biofilm formation on 316L stainless steel was investigated in a pilotscale flow-through system fed with brackish surface water using an alternating flow/stagnation/flow regime. Microbial community analysis by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and sequencing revealed the presence of complex microbial ecosystems consisting of, amongst others, Leptothrix-related manganese-oxidizing bacteria in the adjacent water, and sulfur-oxidizing, sulfate-reducing and slime-producing bacteria in the biofilm. Selective plating of the biofilm indicated the presence of high levels of manganese-oxidizing microorganisms, while microscopic and chemical analyses of the biofilm confirmed the presence of filamentous manganese-precipitating microorganisms, most probably Leptothrix species. Strong accumulation of iron and manganese occurred in the biofilm relative to the adjacent water. No evidence of selective colonization of the steel surface or biocorrosion was found over the experimental period. The overall results of this study highlight the potential formation of complex microbial biofilm communities in flow-through systems thriving on minor concentrations of manganese. © 2002 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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