Dominance of Gas-Eating, Biofilm-Forming Methylobacterium Species in the Evaporator Cores of Automobile Air-Conditioning Systems

Chulwoo Park, Hye Su Jung, Soyoon Park, Che Ok Jeon, Woojun Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Microbial communities in the evaporator core (EC) of automobile air-conditioning systems have a large impact on indoor air quality, such as malodor and allergenicity. DNA-based microbial population analysis of the ECs collected from South Korea, China, the United States, India, and the United Arab Emirates revealed the extraordinary dominance of Methylobacterium species in EC biofilms. Mixed-volatile organic compound (VOC) utilization and biofilm-forming capabilities were evaluated to explain the dominance of Methylobacterium species in the ECs. The superior growth of all Methylobacterium species could be possible under mixed-VOC conditions. Interestingly, two lifestyle groups of Methylobacterium species could be categorized as the aggregator group, which sticks together but forms a small amount of biofilm, and the biofilm-forming group, which forms a large amount of biofilm, and their genomes along with phenotypic assays were analyzed. Pili are some of the major contributors to the aggregator lifestyle, and succinoglycan exopolysaccharide production may be responsible for the biofilm formation. However, the coexistence of these two lifestyle Methylobacterium groups enhanced their biofilm formation compared to that with each single culture.IMPORTANCE Air-conditioning systems (ACS) are indispensable for human daily life; however, microbial community analysis in automobile ACS has yet to be comprehensively investigated. A bacterial community analysis of 24 heat exchanger fins from five countries (South Korea, China, the United States, India, and the United Arab Emirates [UAE]) revealed that Methylobacterium species are some of the dominant bacteria in automobile ACS. Furthermore, we suggested that the predominance of Methylobacterium species in automobile ACS is due to the utilization of mixed volatile organic compounds and their great ability for aggregation and biofilm formation.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan 15



  • aggregation
  • air-conditioning systems
  • biofilm
  • genomes
  • Methylobacterium
  • volatile organic compounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology

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