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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1996 Jul;62(7):2387-92.

Quantifying the biodegradation of phenanthrene by Pseudomonas stutzeri P16 in the presence of a nonionic surfactant.

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


The low water solubility of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons is believed to limit their availability to microorganisms, which is a potential problem for bioremediation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-contaminated sites. Surfactants have been suggested to enhance the bioavailability of hydrophobic compounds, but both negative and positive effects of surfactants on biodegradation have been reported in the literature. Earlier, we presented mechanistic models of the effects of surfactants on phenanthrene dissolution and on the biodegradation kinetics of phenanthrene solubilized in surfactant micelles. In this study, we combined the biodegradation and dissolution models to quantify the influence of the surfactant Tergitol NP-10 on biodegradation of solid-phase phenanthrene by Pseudomonas stutzeri P16. Although micellized phenanthrene does not appear to be available directly to the bacterium, the ability of the surfactant to increase the phenanthrene dissolution rate resulted in an overall increase in bacterial growth rate in the presence of the surfactant. Experimental observations could be predicted well by the derived model with measured biokinetic and dissolution parameters. The proposed model therefore can serve as a base case for understanding the physical-chemical effects of surfactants on nonaqueous hydrocarbon bioavailability.

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