Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 67, Issue 3, pp 420–428 | Cite as

Isolation and taxonomic affiliation of N-heterocyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-transforming bacteria

  • Pia Arentsen WillumsenEmail author
  • Jens Efsen Johansen
  • Ulrich Karlson
  • Bjarne Munk Hansen
Environmental Biotechnology


The azaarenes (nitrogen-containing heterocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are products of incomplete combustion processes and thus are widely distributed with tar and oil products in the environment. Despite their adverse organoleptic, toxic, and carcinogenic characteristics, the biodegradability and fate of multi-ring azaarenes have received little attention. This work demonstrates the presence of genetically diverse azaarene-degrading bacteria in coal tar-contaminated soils. Thirty-eight bacterial strains able to transform the three-ring azaarenes, 5,6- and 7,8-benzoquinoline, phenanthridine, phenazine, or acridine, were isolated. Only seven of these strains grew in liquid medium on the specific azaarene compounds on which they were isolated using plates; and the rest transformed the azaarenes without growth. Taxonomic characterization by 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing revealed that our enrichment technique provided a diversity of 18 different azaarene-transforming bacterial species. Only a few strains were able to mineralize the homocyclic analogue, phenanthrene. Several of the isolates, e.g., Dyadobacter fermentans, Methylopila capsulata, and Agrobacterium tumefaciens, were related to genera relatively unknown with respect to the biodegradation of xenobiotic compounds. These strains can provide further information on the fate of azaarenes in the environment.


Asphalt Phenanthrene Acridine Mineral Salt Medium Phenazine 
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.



The work was financed by the Danish Strategic Environmental Research Program (BIOPRO) and by European Union grants BIO4-CT97-2015 (BIOVAB) and QLK3-1999-00326 (BIOSTIMUL). We thank Anne Grethe Holm-Jensen and Bente Rose Hansen for skilled technical assistance and thank P.H. Pritchard and A.R. Johnsen for critically reading the manuscript


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pia Arentsen Willumsen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jens Efsen Johansen
    • 1
  • Ulrich Karlson
    • 1
  • Bjarne Munk Hansen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Chemistry and MicrobiologyNational Environmental Research InstituteRoskildeDenmark

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