Indoor-biofilter growth and exposure to airborne chemicals drive similar changes in plant root bacterial communities

Jacob A. Russell, Yi Hu, Linh Chau, Margarita Pauliushchyk, Ioannis Anastopoulos, Shivanthi Anandan, Michael S. Waring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Due to the long durations spent inside by many humans, indoor air quality has become a growing concern. Biofiltration has emerged as a potential mechanism to clean indoor air of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are typically found at concentrations higher indoors than outdoors. Root-associated microbes are thought to drive the functioning of plant-based biofilters, or biowalls, converting VOCs into biomass, energy, and carbon dioxide, but little is known about the root microbial communities of such artificially grown plants, how or whether they differ from those of plants grown in soil, and whether any changes in composition are driven by VOCs. In this study, we investigated how bacterial communities on biofilter plant roots change over time and in response to VOC exposure. Through 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, we compared root bacterial communities from soil-grown plants with those from two biowalls, while also comparing communities from roots exposed to clean versus VOC-laden air in a laboratory biofiltration system. The results showed differences in bacterial communities between soilgrown and biowall-grown plants and between bacterial communities from plant roots exposed to clean air and those from VOCexposed plant roots. Both biowall-grown and VOC-exposed roots harbored enriched levels of bacteria from the genus Hyphomicrobium. Given their known capacities to break down aromatic and halogenated compounds, we hypothesize that these bacteria are important VOC degraders. While different strains of Hyphomicrobium proliferated in the two studied biowalls and our lab experiment, strains were shared across plant species, suggesting that a wide range of ornamental houseplants harbor similar microbes of potential use in living biofilters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4805-4813
Number of pages9
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'Indoor-biofilter growth and exposure to airborne chemicals drive similar changes in plant root bacterial communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this