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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1991 Dec;57(12):3462-9.

Indigenous and enhanced mineralization of pyrene, benzo[a]pyrene, and carbazole in soils.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cincinnati, Ohio 45221.


We studied the mineralization of pyrene, carbazole, and benzo[a]pyrene in soils obtained from three abandoned coal gasification plants in southern Illinois. The soils had different histories of past exposure to hydrocarbon contamination and different amounts of total organic carbon, microbial biomass, and microbial activity. Mineralization was measured by using serum bottle radiorespirometry. The levels of indigenous mineralization of 14C-labeled compounds ranged from 10 to 48% for pyrene, from undetectable to 46% for carbazole, and from undetectable to 25% for benzo[a]pyrene following long-term (greater than 180-day) incubations. Pyrene and carbazole were degraded with short or no lag periods in all soils, but benzo[a]pyrene mineralization occurred after a 28-day lag period. Mineralization was not dependent on high levels of microbial biomass and activity in the soils. Bacterial cultures that were capable of degrading pyrene and carbazole were isolated by enrichment, grown in pure culture, and reintroduced into soils. Reintroduction of a pyrene-degrading bacterium enhanced mineralization to a level of 55% within 2 days, compared with a level of 1% for the indigenous population. The carbazole degrader enhanced mineralization to a level of 45% after 7 days in a soil that showed little indigenous carbazole mineralization. The pyrene and carbazole degraders which we isolated were identified as a Mycobacterium sp. and a Xanthamonas sp., respectively. Our results indicated that mineralization of aromatic hydrocarbons can be significantly enhanced by reintroducing isolated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria.

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