The ability to degrade carbonyl sulfide (COS) was confirmed in seven bacterial strains that were isolated from soil, without the addition of COS. Comparative 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis indicated that these isolates belonged to the genera Mycobacterium, Williamsia and Cupriavidus. For example, Mycobacterium sp. strain THI401, grown on PYG agar medium, was able to degrade an initial level of 30 parts per million by volume COS within 1 h, while 60% of the initial COS was decreased by abiotic conversion in 30 h. Considering natural COS flux between soil and the atmosphere, COS degradation by these bacteria was confirmed at an ambient level of 500 parts per trillion by volume (p.p.t.v.), using sterilized soil to cultivate the bacterium. Autoclave sterilization of soil resulted in a small amount of COS emission, while Mycobacterium spp. degraded COS at a faster rate than it was emitted from the soil, and reduced the COS mixing ratio to a level that was lower than the ambient level: THI401 degraded COS from an initial level of 530 p.p.t.v. to a level of 330 p.p.t.v. in 30 h. These results provide experimental evidence of microbial activity in soil as a sink for atmospheric COS.
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