Polar Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 553–562 | Cite as

Biodegradation of phenol by cold-adapted bacteria from Antarctic soils

  • Gillian Li Yin Lee
  • Siti Aqlima AhmadEmail author
  • Nur Adeela Yasid
  • Azham Zulkharnain
  • Peter Convey
  • Wan Lutfi Wan Johari
  • Siti Aisyah Alias
  • Gerardo Gonzalez-Rocha
  • Mohd Yunus Shukor
Original Paper


Phenol is an important pollutant widely discharged as a component of hydrocarbon fuels, but its degradation in cold regions is a great challenge due to the harsh environmental conditions. To date, there is little information available concerning the biodegradation of phenol by indigenous Antarctic bacteria. This study addresses the isolation of three phenol-degrading bacterial strains from King George Island, Antarctica. Based on preliminary screening, three isolates (AQ5-05, AQ5-06 and AQ5-07) capable of completely degrading 0.5 g/L phenol within 120 h at 10 °C were selected for detailed study. Two were identified as Arthrobacter spp., and one Rhodococcus sp., based on 16S rRNA sequences. All strains were non-motile, Gram positive, oxidase negative and catalase positive. A study on the effects of parameters including temperature, pH, salinity and nitrogen source was conducted to optimise the conditions for phenol degradation. This revealed that the three isolates were psychrotolerant with the optimum temperature for phenol degradation between 10 and 15 °C. This study suggests the potential use of cold-adapted bacteria in the bioremediation of phenol over a wide range of low temperatures.


South Shetland Islands Bioremediation Psychrotolerant One-factor-at-a-time Arthrobacter Rhodococcus 



This work was supported by Matching Grant (UPM-YPASM 9300430), YPASM Berth Support, PUTRA-IPM (9476900), PUTRA-IPS (9508500), IIOES-2014G “Latitudinal Differences in Response and Adaptation of Microbes to Atmospheric Changes”, research grant Higher Institute of Centre of Excellence, Ministry of Higher Education. The authors would like to thank Professor Hiroyuki Futamata and Yui Arashi from Shizuoka University for the contribution of SEM images. In addition, we would like to thank Motharasan Manogaran for the help in data analysis. We also thank Malaysia Ministry of High Education for providing a My PhD scholarship to Gillian Li Yin Lee. Peter Convey is supported by NERC core funding to the British Antarctic Survey’s ‘Biodiversity, Evolution and Adaptation’ Team, and by a Visiting Icon Professorship to the University of Malaya. This paper also contributes to the international SCAR research programme ‘State of the Antarctic Ecosystem’.

Supplementary material

300_2017_2216_MOESM1_ESM.docx (604 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 603 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillian Li Yin Lee
    • 1
  • Siti Aqlima Ahmad
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Nur Adeela Yasid
    • 1
    • 2
  • Azham Zulkharnain
    • 3
  • Peter Convey
    • 2
    • 4
  • Wan Lutfi Wan Johari
    • 5
  • Siti Aisyah Alias
    • 2
    • 6
  • Gerardo Gonzalez-Rocha
    • 7
  • Mohd Yunus Shukor
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Biotechnology and Biomolecular SciencesUniversiti Putra MalaysiaSelangorMalaysia
  2. 2.National Antarctic Research CentreKuala LumpurMalaysia
  3. 3.Department of Molecular Biology, Faculty of Resource Science and TechnologyUniversiti Malaysia SarawakSarawakMalaysia
  4. 4.British Antarctic Survey, NERCCambridgeUK
  5. 5.Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Environmental StudiesUniversiti Putra MalaysiaSelangorMalaysia
  6. 6.Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences, Universiti MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia
  7. 7.Laboratorio de Investigacion en Agentes Antibacterianos, Facultad de Ciencias BiologicasUniversidad de ConcepcionConcepcionChile

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