, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 351-368

First online:

Biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

  • Carl E. CernigliaAffiliated withMicrobiology Division, National Center for Toxicological Research

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The intent of this review is to provide an outline of the microbial degradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. A catabolically diverse microbial community, consisting of bacteria, fungi and algae, metabolizes aromatic compounds. Molecular oxygen is essential for the initial hydroxylation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons by microorganisms. In contrast to bacteria, filamentous fungi use hydroxylation as a prelude to detoxification rather than to catabolism and assimilation. The biochemical principles underlying the degradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are examined in some detail. The pathways of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon catabolism are discussed. Studies are presented on the relationship between the chemical structure of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and the rate of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon biodegradation in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Key words

biodegradation degradation detoxification dioxygenase hydroxylation monooxygenase polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ring cleavage