Hydrocarbon Metabolism


Although originally biogenic, most aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons are now xenobiotic to the environment. Some bioaccumulate and are potentially harmful. Most others are quickly degraded by specialized microorganisms under aerobic or anaerobic conditions.

Keywords: biodegradation; environmental biotechnology; alkane; benzene

Figure 1.

Structural classification of aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons.

Figure 2.

Pathways for the microbial degradation of aliphatic hydrocarbons under aerobic conditions.

Figure 3.

Pathways for the microbial degradation of aromatic hydrocarbons under aerobic conditions.

Figure 4.

Pathways for the microbial degradation of aliphatic hydrocarbons under anaerobic conditions.

Figure 5.

Pathways for the microbial degradation of aromatic hydrocarbons under anaerobic conditions.



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Further Reading

Buckel W and Golding BT (2006) Radical enzymes in anaerobes. Annual Review of Microbiology 60: 27–49.

Centre of Documentation, Research and Experimentation on Accidental Water Pollution, http://www.cedre.fr/index_gb.html (verified on 1 August 2007).

Heider J (2007) Adding handles to unhandy substrates: anaerobic hydrocarbon activation mechanisms. Current Opinion in Chemical Biology 11: 188–194.

Riser‐Roberts E (1998) Remediation of Petroleum Contaminated Soil. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

The Association for Environmental Health and Science, Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon Working Group, http://www.aehs.com/publications/catalog/contents/tph.htm (verified on 1 August 2007).

United Nations Environment Programme, Global Marine Oil Pollution Information Gateway, http://oils.gpa.unep.org/facts/facts.htm (verified on 1 August 2007).

University of Minnesota Biocatalysis/Biodegradation Database, http://umbbd.msi.umn.edu/index.html (verified on 1 August 2007).

Zhang C and Bennett GN (2005) Biodegradation of xenobiotics by anaerobic bacteria. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 67: 600–618.

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Patzelt, Heiko(Dec 2007) Hydrocarbon Metabolism. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000473]