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Biotechnol Bioeng. 1998 Aug 20;59(4):482-94.

Surfactant-enhanced biodegradation of high molecular weight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons by stenotrophomonas maltophilia

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Centre for Bioprocessing and Food Technology, Victoria University of Technology, Weribee Campus, P.O. Box 14428 MCMC, Melbourne, Australia, 8001.


The objectives of this study were to isolate and evaluate microorganisms with the ability to degrade high molecular weight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the presence of synthetic surfactants. Stenotrophomonas maltophilia VUN 10,010, isolated from PAH-contaminated soil, utilized pyrene as a sole carbon and energy source and also degraded other high molecular weight PAHs containing up to seven benzene rings. Various synthetic surfactants were tested for their ability to improve the PAH degradation rate of strain VUN 10,010. Anionic and cationic surfactants were highly toxic to this strain, and the Tween series was used as a growth substrate. Five nonionic surfactants (Brij 35, Igepal CA-630, Triton X-100, Tergitol NP-10, and Tyloxapol) were not utilized by, and were less toxic to, strain VUN 10,010. MSR and log Km values were determined for fluoranthene, pyrene, and benzo[a]pyrene in the presence of these nonionic surfactants and their apparent solubility was increased by a minimum of 250-fold in the presence of 10 g L-1 of all surfactants. The rate of pyrene degradation by strain VUN 10,010 was enhanced by the addition of four of the nonionic surfactants (5-10 g L-1); however, 5 g L-1 Igepal CA-630 inhibited pyrene degradation and microbial growth. The specific growth rate of VUN 10,010 on pyrene was increased by 67% in the presence of 10 g L-1 Brij 35 or Tergitol NP-10. The addition of Brij 35 and Tergitol NP-10 to media containing a single high molecular weight PAH (four and five benzene rings) as the sole carbon source increased the maximum specific PAH degradation rate and decreased the lag period normally seen for PAH degradation. The addition of Tergitol NP-10 to VUN 10,010 cultures which contained a PAH mixture (three to seven benzene rings) substantially improved the overall degradation rate of each PAH and increased the specific growth rate of VUN 10,010 by 30%. Evaluation of the use of VUN 10,010 for degrading high molecular weight PAHs in leachates from surfactant-flushed, weathered, PAH-contaminated sites is warranted.


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