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Catabolism of terbuthylazine by mixed bacterial culture originating from s-triazine-contaminated soil


The s-triazine herbicide terbuthylazine (TERB) has been used as the main substitute of atrazine in many EU countries for more than 10 years. However, the ecological consequences of this substitution are still not fully understood. Since the fate of triazine herbicides is primarily dependent on microbial degradation, in this paper, we investigated the ability of a mixed bacterial culture, M3-T, originating from s-triazine-contaminated soil, to degrade TERB in liquid culture and soil microcosms. The M3-T culture grown in mineral medium with TERB as the N source and citrate as the C source degraded 50 mg L−1 of TERB within 3 days of incubation. The culture was capable of degrading TERB as the sole C and N source, though at slower degradation kinetics. A thorough LC-MS analysis of the biodegradation media showed the formation of hydroxyterbuthylazine (TERB-OH) and N-t-butylammelide (TBA) as major metabolites, and desethylterbuthylazine (DET), hydroxydesethylterbuthylazine (DET-OH) and cyanuric acid (CA) as minor metabolites in the TERB degradation pathway. TBA was identified as a bottleneck in the catabolic pathway leading to its transient accumulation in culture media. The supplementation of glucose as the exogenous C source had no effect on TBA degradation, whereas citrate inhibited its disappearance. The addition of M3-T to sterile soil artificially contaminated with TERB at 3 mg kg−1 of soil resulted in an accelerated TERB degradation with t 1/2 value being about 40 times shorter than that achieved by the native microbial community. Catabolic versatility of M3-T culture makes it a promising seed culture for accelerating biotransformation processes in s-triazine-contaminated environment.

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This study was financially supported by the Croatian Ministry of Science, Education and Sports (Project nos. 098-0982934-2712 and 058-1252086-0589). We thank Prof. Zvonimir Ostojić from the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb for providing soil from the experimental station in Šašinovečki Lug. We further thank Dr. Neda Vdović from Rudjer Bošković Institute and the staff of the Department of Soil Amelioration and Department of General Agronomy of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb, for their cooperation in soil characterization.

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Correspondence to Nikolina Udiković-Kolić.

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Jurina, T., Terzić, S., Ahel, M. et al. Catabolism of terbuthylazine by mixed bacterial culture originating from s-triazine-contaminated soil. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 98, 7223–7232 (2014).

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  • Terbuthylazine
  • Biodegradation
  • Bacterial culture
  • s-Triazines