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Biodegradation and bioremediation of hydrocarbons in extreme environments

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Many hydrocarbon-contaminated environments are characterized by low or elevated temperatures, acidic or alkaline pH, high salt concentrations, or high pressure. Hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms, adapted to grow and thrive in these environments, play an important role in the biological treatment of polluted extreme habitats. The biodegradation (transformation or mineralization) of a wide range of hydrocarbons, including aliphatic, aromatic, halogenated and nitrated compounds, has been shown to occur in various extreme habitats. The biodegradation of many components of petroleum hydrocarbons has been reported in a variety of terrestrial and marine cold ecosystems. Cold-adapted hydrocarbon degraders are also useful for wastewater treatment. The use of thermophiles for biodegradation of hydrocarbons with low water solubility is of interest, as solubility and thus bioavailability, are enhanced at elevated temperatures. Thermophiles, predominantly bacilli, possess a substantial potential for the degradation of environmental pollutants, including all major classes. Indigenous thermophilic hydrocarbon degraders are of special significance for the bioremediation of oil-polluted desert soil. Some studies have investigated composting as a bioremediation process. Hydrocarbon biodegradation in the presence of high salt concentrations is of interest for the bioremediation of oil-polluted salt marshes and industrial wastewaters, contaminated with aromatic hydrocarbons or with chlorinated hydrocarbons. Our knowledge of the biodegradation potential of acidophilic, alkaliphilic, or barophilic microorganisms is limited.

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Received revision: 12 April 2001

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Margesin, .R., Schinner, .F. Biodegradation and bioremediation of hydrocarbons in extreme environments. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 56, 650–663 (2001).

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