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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2000 May;66(5):1917-22.

Products from the incomplete metabolism of pyrene by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7400, USA.


Pyrene is a regulated pollutant at sites contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). It is mineralized by some bacteria but is also transformed to nonmineral products by a variety of other PAH-degrading bacteria. We examined the formation of such products by four bacterial strains and identified and further characterized the most apparently significant of these metabolites. Pseudomonas stutzeri strain P16 and Bacillus cereus strain P21 transformed pyrene primarily to cis-4,5-dihydro-4,5-dihydroxypyrene (PYRdHD), the first intermediate in the known pathway for aerobic bacterial mineralization of pyrene. Sphingomonas yanoikuyae strain R1 transformed pyrene to PYRdHD and pyrene-4,5-dione (PYRQ). Both strain R1 and Pseudomonas saccharophila strain P15 transform PYRdHD to PYRQ nearly stoichiometrically, suggesting that PYRQ is formed by oxidation of PYRdHD to 4,5-dihydroxypyrene and subsequent autoxidation of this metabolite. A pyrene-mineralizing organism, Mycobacterium strain PYR-1, also transforms PYRdHD to PYRQ at high initial concentrations of PYRdHD. However, strain PYR-1 is able to use both PYRdHD and PYRQ as growth substrates. PYRdHD strongly inhibited phenanthrene degradation by strains P15 and R1 but had only a minor effect on strains P16 and P21. At their aqueous saturation concentrations, both PYRdHD and PYRQ severely inhibited benzo[a]pyrene mineralization by strains P15 and R1. Collectively, these findings suggest that products derived from pyrene transformation have the potential to accumulate in PAH-contaminated systems and that such products can significantly influence the removal of other PAH. However, these products may be susceptible to subsequent degradation by organisms able to metabolize pyrene more extensively if such organisms are present in the system.

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