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Concept: Bioremediation


Environmentally Degradable Parameter ((Ed)K) is of importance in the describing of biodegradability of environmentally biodegradable polymers (BDPs). In this study, a concept (Ed)K was introduced. A test procedure of using the ISO 14852 method and detecting the evolved carbon dioxide as an analytical parameter was developed, and the calculated (Ed)K was used as an indicator for the ultimate biodegradability of materials. Starch and polyethylene used as reference materials were defined as the (Ed)K values of 100 and 0, respectively. Natural soil samples were inoculated into bioreactors, followed by determining the rates of biodegradation of the reference materials and 15 commercial BDPs over a 2-week test period. Finally, a formula was deduced to calculate the value of (Ed)K for each material. The (Ed)K values of the tested materials have a positive correlation to their biodegradation rates in the simulated soil environment, and they indicated the relative biodegradation rate of each material among all the tested materials. Therefore, the (Ed)K was shown to be a reliable indicator for quantitatively evaluating the potential biodegradability of BDPs in the natural environment.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Environment, Natural environment, Environmental remediation, Biodegradation, Environmentalism, Bioremediation, Bioplastic


Agricultural soils represent the main source of anthropogenic N2O emissions. Recently, interactions of black carbon with the nitrogen cycle have been recognized and the use of biochar is being investigated as a means to reduce N2O emissions. However, the mechanisms of reduction remain unclear. Here we demonstrate the significant impact of biochar on denitrification, with a consistent decrease in N2O emissions by 10-90% in 14 different agricultural soils. Using the (15)N gas-flux method we observed a consistent reduction of the N2O/(N2 + N2O) ratio, which demonstrates that biochar facilitates the last step of denitrification. Biochar acid buffer capacity was identified as an important aspect for mitigation that was not primarily caused by a pH shift in soil. We propose the function of biochar as an “electron shuttle” that facilitates the transfer of electrons to soil denitrifying microorganisms, which together with its liming effect would promote the reduction of N2O to N2.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Metabolism, Nitrogen, PH, Buffer solution, Bioremediation, Denitrification, Nitrogen cycle


A major challenge for the bioremediation of toxic metals is the co-occurrence of nitrate, as it can inhibit metal transformation. Geobacter metallireducens, Desulfovibrio desulfuricans, and Sulfurospirillum barnesii are three soil bacteria that can reduce chromate [Cr(VI)] and nitrate, and may be beneficial for developing bioremediation strategies. All three organisms respire through dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonia (DNRA), employing different nitrate reductases but similar nitrite reductase (Nrf). G. metallireducens reduces nitrate to nitrite via the membrane bound nitrate reductase (Nar), while S. barnesii and D. desulfuricans strain 27774 have slightly different forms of periplasmic nitrate reductase (Nap). We investigated the effect of DNRA growth in the presence of Cr(VI) in these three organisms and the ability of each to reduce Cr(VI) to Cr(III), and found that each organisms responded differently. Growth of G. metallireducens on nitrate was completely inhibited by Cr(VI). Cultures of D. desulfuricans on nitrate media was initially delayed (48 h) in the presence of Cr(VI), but ultimately reached comparable cell yields to the non-treated control. This prolonged lag phase accompanied the transformation of Cr(VI) to Cr(III). Viable G. metallireducens cells could reduce Cr(VI), whereas Cr(VI) reduction by D. desulfuricans during growth, was mediated by a filterable and heat stable extracellular metabolite. S. barnesii growth on nitrate was not affected by Cr(VI), and Cr(VI) was reduced to Cr(III). However, Cr(VI) reduction activity in S. barnesii, was detected in both the cell free spent medium and cells, indicating both extracellular and cell associated mechanisms. Taken together, these results have demonstrated that Cr(VI) affects DNRA in the three organisms differently, and that each have a unique mechanism for Cr(VI) reduction.

Concepts: Bacteria, Metabolism, Redox, Nitrogen, Bioremediation, Denitrification, Nitrate, Nitrate reductase


Cultures from the unicellular green alga Scenedesmus obliquus biodegrade the toxic p-cresol (4-methylphenol) and use it as alternative carbon/energy source. The biodegradation procedure of p-cresol seems to be a two-step process. HPLC analyses indicate that the split of the methyl group (first step) that is possibly converted to methanol (increased methanol concentration in the growth medium), leading, according to our previous work, to changes in the molecular structure and function of the photosynthetic apparatus and therefore to microalgal biomass increase. The second step is the fission of the intermediately produced phenol. A higher p-cresol concentration results in a higher p-cresol biodegradation rate and a lower total p-cresol biodegradability. The first biodegradation step seems to be the most decisive for the effectiveness of the process, because methanol offers energy for the further biodegradation reactions. The absence of LHCII from the Scenedesmus mutant wt-lhc stopped the methanol effect and significantly reduced the p-cresol biodegradation (only 9%). The present contribution deals with an energy distribution between microalgal growth and p-cresol biodegradation, activated by p-cresol concentration. The simultaneous biomass increase with the detoxification of a toxic phenolic compound (p-cresol) could be a significant biotechnological aspect for further applications.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Bacteria, Biodegradation, Phenols, Bioremediation, Microbial biodegradation, Biodegradability prediction


The effects of microbial iron reduction and oxidation on the immobilization and mobilization of copper was investigated in a high concentration of sulfate with synthesized Fe(III) minerals and red earth soils rich in amorphous Fe (hydr)oxides. Batch microcosm experiments showed that red earth soil inoculated with subsurface sediments had a faster Fe(III) bioreduction rate than pure amorphous Fe(III) minerals and resulted in quicker immobilization of Cu in the aqueous fraction. Coinciding with the decrease of aqueous Cu, SO4(2-) in the inoculated red earth soil decreased acutely after incubation. The shift in the microbial community composite in the inoculated soil was analyzed through denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. Results revealed the potential cooperative effect of microbial Fe(III) reduction and sulfate reduction on copper immobilization. After exposure to air for 144 h, more than 50% of the immobilized Cu was remobilized from the anaerobic matrices; aqueous sulfate increased significantly. Sequential extraction analysis demonstrated that the organic matter/sulfide-bound Cu increased by 52% after anaerobic incubation relative to the abiotic treatment but decreased by 32% after oxidation, indicating the generation and oxidation of Cu-sulfide co-precipitates in the inoculated red earth soil. These findings suggest that the immobilization of copper could be enhanced by mediating microbial Fe(III) reduction with sulfate reduction under anaerobic conditions. The findings have an important implication for bioremediation in Cu-contaminated and Fe-rich soils, especially in acid mine drainage (AMD)-affected sites.

Concepts: Archaea, Iron, Hydrogen, Redox, Nitrogen, Aluminium, Zinc, Bioremediation


The release of pharmaceuticals in the environment, as parent compounds, metabolites and transformation products, and the consequent risks posed to living organisms due to the unintended exposure of the latter to these chemicals are nowadays of increasing scientific concern. The development of advanced oxidation processes able to degrade these substances is in the core of the current research objectives, the main target being the removal of these compounds from wastewaters. Often the focus is on the removal of the parent compound only. However, these processes can form transformation products. Knowledge on the risk related to such transformation products is scarce. Among others, knowledge on their toxic effects and their biodegradability is of importance not only when they are present in the environment but also for the assessment of the advanced oxidation processes' efficiency applied for their degradation. Photolytic (UV irradiation) and photocatalytic treatment (UV irradiation in the presence of TiO(2)) of the fluoroquinolone ofloxacin were applied, and the biodegradability of the formed products was investigated using the Closed Bottle test (OECD 301 D). Various transformation products, formed both during the photo(cata)lytic treatment and the Closed Bottle test, were identified using chromatographic analysis with an ultra high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS) system. The transformation products formed during the phototreatments were found to be non-readily biodegradable as the biodegradation percentages were close to zero. The persistence of the various photo(cata)lytic transformation products during the Closed Bottle test may be attributed to the fluorine present in all the transformation products formed. The transformation products identified suggest that two transformation routes were present: decarboxylation and opening of the piperazinyl ring. Interestingly, it was observed that in the presence of a readily biodegradable carbon source (sodium acetate), the biodegradation percentage increased drastically for some of the photolytically treated samples. This was not the case for the photocatalytically treated samples, in which also mineralization of the parent compound was achieved faster. Further research is needed, however, in order to increase the understanding of the conditions that may lead to less potent and persistent substances during the application of such engineered or natural processes.

Concepts: Chromatography, Biodegradation, Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, Bioremediation, Microbial biodegradation, Biodegradability prediction


Lindane is a notorious organochlorine pesticide due to its high toxicity, persistence in the environment and its tendency to bioaccumulate. A yeast strain isolated from sorghum cultivation field was able to use lindane as carbon and energy source under aerobic conditions. With molecular techniques, it was identified and named as Rhodotorula strain VITJzN03. The effects of nutritional and environmental factors on yeast growth and the biodegradation of lindane was investigated. The maximum production of yeast biomass along with 100 % lindane mineralization was noted at an initial lindane concentration of 600 mg l(-1) within a period of 10 days. Lindane concentration above 600 mg l(-1) inhibited the growth of yeast in liquid medium. A positive relationship was noted between the release of chloride ions and the increase of yeast biomass as well as degradation of lindane. The calculated degradation rate and half life of lindane were found to be 0.416 day(-1) and 1.66 days, respectively. The analysis of the metabolites using GC-MS identified the formation of seven intermediates including γ-pentachlorocyclohexane(γ-PCCH), 1,3,4,6-tetrachloro-1,4-cyclohexadiene(1,4-TCCHdiene), 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene (1,2,4 TCB), 1,4-dichlorobenzene (1,4 DCB), chloro-cis-1,2-dihydroxycyclohexadiene (CDCHdiene), 3-chlorocatechol (3-CC) and maleylacetate (MA) derivatives indicating that lindane degradation follows successive dechlorination and oxido-reduction. Based on the results of the present study, the possible pathway for lindane degradation by Rhodotorula sp. VITJzN03 has been proposed. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on lindane degradation by yeast which can serve as a potential agent for in situ bioremediation of medium to high level lindane-contaminated sites.

Concepts: Metabolism, Environment, Yeast, Ion, In situ, Chloride, Bioremediation, Rhodotorula


Thiodiglycol (TDG) is both the precursor for chemical synthesis of mustard gas and the product of mustard gas hydrolysis. TDG can also react with intermediates of mustard gas degradation to form more toxic and/or persistent aggregates, or reverse the pathway of mustard gas degradation. The persistence of TDG have been observed in soils and in the groundwater at sites contaminated by mustard gas 60 years ago. The biotransformation of TDG has been demonstrated in three soils not previously exposed to the chemical. TDG biotransformation occurred via the oxidative pathway with an optimum rate at pH 8.25. In contrast with bacteria isolated from historically contaminated soil, which could degrade TDG individually, a consortium of three bacterial strains isolated from the soil never contaminated by mustard gas was able to grow on TDG in minimal medium and in hydrolysate derived from an historical mustard gas bomb. Exposure to TDG had little impacts on the soil microbial physiology or on community structure. Therefore, the persistency of TDG in soils historically contaminated by mustard gas might be attributed to the toxicity of mustard gas to microorganisms and the impact to soil chemistry during the hydrolysis. TDG biodegradation may form part of a remediation strategy for mustard gas contaminated sites, and may be enhanced by pH adjustment and aeration.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Soil, Nitrogen, Environmental remediation, Microorganism, Bioremediation, Chemical Weapons Convention


The evolution of microstructure and mechanical properties of almost fully amorphous Mg(72) Zn(23) Ca(5) and crystalline Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) alloys during immersion in Hank’s balanced salt solution (HBSS), as well as their cytocompatibility, are investigated in order to assess the feasibility of both materials as biodegradable implants. Though the crystalline Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) sample shows lower wettability and more positive corrosion potential, this sample degrades much faster upon incubation in HBSS as a consequence of the formation of micro-galvanic couples between the nobler Pd-rich dendrites and the surrounding phases. After 22-h immersion, the concentration of Mg ions in the HBSS medium containing the Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) sample is six times larger than for Mg(72) Zn(23) Ca(5) . Due to the Zn enrichment and the incipient porosity, the mechanical properties of the Mg(72) Zn(23) Ca(5) sample improve within the first stages of biodegradation (i.e., hardness increases while the Young’s modulus decreases, thus rendering an enhanced wear resistance). Cytocompatibility studies reveal that neither Mg(72) Zn(23) Ca(5) nor Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) are cytotoxic, although preosteoblast cell adhesion is to some extent precluded, particularly onto the surface of Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) , because of the relatively high hydrophobicity. Because of their outstanding properties and their time-evolution, the use of the Pd-free alloy in temporary implants such as screws, stents, and sutures is envisioned. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A, 2013.

Concepts: Zinc, Solid, Materials science, Biodegradation, Young's modulus, Bioremediation, Microbial biodegradation, Biodegradability prediction


Dispersants are important tools for stimulating the biodegradation of large oil spills. They are essentially a bioremediation tool - aiming to stimulate the natural process of aerobic oil biodegradation by dispersing oil into micron-sized droplets that become so dilute in the water column that the natural levels of biologically available nitrogen, phosphorus and oxygen are sufficient for microbial growth. Many studies demonstrate the efficacy of dispersants in getting oil off the water surface. Here we show that biodegradation of dispersed oil is prompt and extensive when oil is present at the ppm levels expected from a successful application of dispersants - more than 80% of the hydrocarbons of lightly weathered Alaska North Slope crude oil were degraded in 60d at 8°C in unamended New Jersey (USA) seawater when the oil was present at 2.5ppm by volume. The apparent halftime of the biodegradation of the hydrocarbons was 13.8d in the absence of dispersant, and 11d in the presence of Corexit 9500 - similar to rates extrapolated from the field in the Deepwater Horizon response.

Concepts: Water, Hydrogen, Petroleum, Alaska, Bioremediation, Exxon Valdez oil spill, Oil spill, Microbial biodegradation