Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 66, Issue 6, pp 726–736 | Cite as

Influence of the carbon/nitrogen/phosphorus ratio on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon degradation by Mycobacterium and Sphingomonas in soil

  • Natalie M. Leys
  • Leen Bastiaens
  • Willy Verstraete
  • Dirk SpringaelEmail author
Environmental Biotechnology


Biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the environment is often limited due to unfavorable nutrient conditions for the bacteria that use these PAHs as sole source of carbon and energy. Mycobacterium and Sphingomonas are 2 PAH-degrading specialists commonly present in PAH-polluted soil, but not much is known about their specific nutrient requirements. By adding different inorganic supplements of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), affecting the overall carbon/nitrogen/phosphorus ratio of soil in soil slurry degradation tests, we investigated the impact of soil inorganic N and P nutrient conditions on PAH degradation by PAH-degrading Sphingomonas and Mycobacterium strains. The general theoretically calculated C/N/P ratio of 100/10/1 (expressed in moles) allowed rapid PAH metabolization by Sphingomonas and Mycobacterium strains without limitation. In addition, PAH-degradation rate and extent was not affected when ca. ten times lower concentrations of N and P were provided, indicating that Sphingomonas and Mycobacterium strains are capable of metabolizing PAHs under low nutrient conditions. Nor does PAH-degradation seem to be affected by excesses of N and P creating an imbalanced C/N/P ratio. However, supplements of N and P salts increased the salinity of soil slurry solutions and seriously limited or even completely blocked biodegradation.


PAHs Phenanthrene Mycobacterium Sphingomonas Soil Slurry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was partially supported by the EC contract QLK3-1999-00326


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Natalie M. Leys
    • 1
    • 2
  • Leen Bastiaens
    • 1
  • Willy Verstraete
    • 2
  • Dirk Springael
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Flemish institute for Technological Research (Vito)Environmental and Process TechnologyMolBelgium
  2. 2.Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and TechnologyUniversity of GhentGentBelgium

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