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Biodegradation. 2013 Apr;24(2):257-67. doi: 10.1007/s10532-012-9584-3. Epub 2012 Aug 19.

Fungal biodegradation of phthalate plasticizer in situ.

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  • 1Enzyme Technology Laboratory, Biotechnology Division, Department of Botany, University of Calicut, Malappuram, Kerala, 673 635, India.


This unique study describes how Aspergillus japonicus, Penicillium brocae and Purpureocillium lilacinum, three novel isolates of our laboratory from heavily plastics-contaminated soil completely utilized the plasticizer di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) bound to PVC blood storage bags (BB) in simple basal salt medium (BSM) by static submerged growth (28 °C). Initial quantification as well as percentage utilization of DEHP blended to BB were estimated periodically by extracting it into n-hexane. A two-stage cultivation strategy was employed for the complete mycoremediation of DEHP from BB in situ. During the first growth stage, about two-third parts of total (33.5% w/w) DEHP bound to BB were utilized in two weeks, accompanied by increased fungal biomass (~0.15-0.32 g per g BB) and sharp declining (to ~3) of initial pH (7.2). At this stagnant growth state (low pH), spent medium was replaced by fresh BSM (pH, 7.2), and thus in the second stage the remaining DEHP (one-third) in BB was utilized completely. The ditches and furrows seen from the topology of the BB as seen by the 3D AFM image further confirmed the bioremediation of DEHP physically bound to BB in situ. Of the three mycelial fungi employed, P. lilacinum independently showed highest efficiency for the complete utilization of DEHP bound to BB, whose activity was comparable to that of the consortium comprising all the three fungi described herein. To sum up, the two-stage cultivation strategy demonstrated in this study shows that a batch process would efficiently remediate the phthalic acid esters blended in plastics on a large scale, and thus it offers potentials for the management of plastics wastes.

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