Biodegradation of Organic Pollutants

Abstract

Biodegradation refers to the microbial decomposition of compounds, typically of those that negatively impact human health, in the environment. The genes, enzymes and pathways have been elucidated to understand environmental processes, engineer remediation of polluted environments and to predict the fate of chemicals in the environment.

Keywords: biodegradation; bioremediation; bacteria; pollutants; evolution

Figure 1.

Differences in aerobic versus anaerobic metabolism of alkyl hydrocarbons: (a) aerobic oxygenation of a methyl group to an alcohol, and (b) anaerobic functionalization of a methyl group to make a succinyl appendage.

Figure 2.

Distinctions in the metabolism of the BTEX compounds aerobically versus anaerobically.

Figure 3.

Metabolism of atrazine can occur via microbial consortia. The intermediates on the right represent the end products of metabolism of identified bacteria. Other bacteria can use these intermediates to collectively mineralize atrazine.

Figure 4.

Plasmids involved in horizontal transfer of genes. Larger plasmids can be seen to contain a smaller plasmid‐type within them; thus, the larger plasmids may derive from an ancestor resembling pR751.

Figure 5.

The compound metabolism gap; our knowledge of microbial metabolism grows more slowly than our discovery and synthesis of new chemical compounds.

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Further Reading

Alexander M (1994) Biodegradation and Bioremediation. San Diego: Academic Press.

Wackett LP and Hershberger CD (2001) Biocatalysis and Biodegradation: Microbial Transformation of Organic Compounds. Washington, DC: American Society for Microbiology Press.

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How to Cite close
Wackett, Lawrence P, and Ellis, Lynda BM(Jan 2006) Biodegradation of Organic Pollutants. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0000469]