, Volume 13, Issue 7, pp 631–635 | Cite as

Potential Ecotoxicological Implication of Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) Spills in the Environment

  • G. H. Shahidi BonjarEmail author


Streptomyceticidal activity of Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) elucidated for the first time. Adverse effect of MTBE, the gasoline additive, against 11 soil inhabitant Streptomyces spp. isolates was investigated. MTBE, an octane enhancer is added to gasoline to reduce atmospheric concentrations of carbon monoxide and ozone. It contaminates soil and groundwater by fuel leaks and spills. Streptomyces spp. are of the major contributors to the biological buffering of soils by exerting beneficial and antagonistic activity against wide range of bacteria and fungi. To evaluate anti-streptomycetidal activity of MTBE, it was tested against 11 soil isolates of Streptomyces isolates and also a plant-root bacterial pathogen, Erwinia carotovora and a plant-root fungal pathogen, Fusarium solani. MTBE did not reveal any growth inhibitory activity against E. carotovora and F. solani, but showed strong inhibitory effect against Streptomyces isolates. The Minimum Inhibitory Concentration (MIC) on Streptomyces isolates was 1/800 of the original MTBE. Fuel leaks and spills have the potential to suppress or eliminate the Streptomyces role in the soil causing alteration in the balance of soil micro flora. This change can promote the domination of microorganisms with adverse biological or ecotoxicological effects.


soil micro flora soil contamination MTBE 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. An, Y., Kampbell, D.H., Sewell, G.W. 2002Water quality at five marines in Lake Texoma as related to methyle-tert-butyl ether (MTBE)Environ. Pollut.1183316PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Baron, E.J., Peterson, L.R., Finegold, S.M. 1990Methods for testing antimicrobial effectiveness.Baily, Scott,  eds. Diagnostic MicrobiologyThe C.V. Mosby CoSt. Louis, Missouri171948th ed.Google Scholar
  3. Bennett, G.F. 2001MTBE: effects on soil and groundwater resourcesJ. Hazard. Material881414Google Scholar
  4. Brown, J.S., Bay, S.M., Greenstein, D.J. and Ray, W.R. (2000). Concentrations of methyle-tert-butyl ether (MTBE) in inputs and receiving waters of Southern California. Southern California Coastal Water Research Project Authority, 1999–2000, Annual ReportGoogle Scholar
  5. Caprino, L., Togna, G.I. 1998Potential health effects of gasoline and its constituents: a review of current literature (1990–1997) on toxicological dataEnviron. Health Perspect.10611525PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Demain, A.L. 1998Induction of microbial secondary metabolismInt. Microbiol.1259264PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Fortin, N., Morales, M., Nakagawa, Y., Focht, D., Deshusses, M. 2001Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) degradation by a microbial consortiumEnviron. Microbiol.340716PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Getha, K., Vikineswary, S. 2002Antagonistic effects of Streptomyces violaceusniger strain G10 on Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense race 4: indirect evidence for the role of antibiosis in the antagonistic processInd. Microbiol. & Biotechnol. 2530310Google Scholar
  9. Hanson, J., Ackerman, C., Scow, L. 1999Biodegradation of methyl tert-butyl ether by a bacterial pure cultureAppl. Environ. Microbiol.65478892PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Hardison, L., Curry, S., Ciuffetti, S., Hyman, M. 1997Metabolism of diethyl ether and cometabolism of methyl tert-butyl ether by a filamentous fungus, a Graphium spAppl. Environ. Microbiol.63305967PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Hoffert, S.P. 1998Haze of uncertainty surrounds gas additiveThe Scientist127Google Scholar
  12. Johnson, R., Pankow, J., Bender, D., Price, C., Zogorski, J. 2000MTBE, to what extent will past releases contaminate community water supply wellsEnviron. Sci. Technol.322107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Okami, Y., Hotta, K. 1988Search and discovery of new antibiotics.Goodfellow, M.Williams, S.T.Modarski, M. eds. Actinomycetes in BiotechnologyAcademic PressLondon3367Google Scholar
  14. Reuter, J.E., Allen, B.C., Richards, R.C., Pankow, J.F., Goldman, C.R., Scholl, R.L., Seyfried, J.S. 1998Concentrations, sources, and fate of the gasoline oxygenate methyle-tert-butyl ether (MTBE) in the multiple-use lakeEnviron. Sci. Technol.32366672Google Scholar
  15. Salanitro, J., Diaz, L., Williams, M., Wisniewski, H. 1994Isolation of a bacterial culture that degrades methyl t-butyl etherAppl. Environ. Microbiol.60259396PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Steffan, R., Mc Clay, K., Vainberg, S., Condee, C., Zhang, D. 2001Biodegradation of gasoline oxygenates Methyl tert-butyl ether, Ethyl tert-butyl ether and Tert-amil methyl ether by propane-oxidizing bacteriaAppl. Environ. Microbiol.63421622Google Scholar
  17. Sykes, G., Skinner, F.A. 1973Actinomycetales: Characteristics and practical importanceAcademic PressLondonGoogle Scholar
  18. Williams-Hill, D., Spears, C.P., Prakash, S., Olah, G.A., Shamma, T., Moin, T., Kim, L.Y., Hill, C.K. 1999Mutagenicity studies of methyle-tert-butyl ether using the Ames tester strain TA102Mutat. Res.4461521PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant Pathology, College of Agricultural EngineeringUniversity of KermanBahonarIran

Personalised recommendations