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Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2004 Jun;15(3):215-24.

Genomic and mechanistic insights into the biodegradation of organic pollutants.

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Division of Microbiology, German Research Centre for Biotechnology, Mascheroder Weg 1, Braunschweig, Germany.


Several new methodologies have enabled recent studies on the microbial biodegradation mechanisms of organic pollutants. Culture-independent techniques for analysis of the genetic and metabolic potential of natural and model microbial communities that degrade organic pollutants have identified new metabolic pathways and enzymes for aerobic and anaerobic degradation. Furthermore, structural studies of the enzymes involved have revealed the specificities and activities of key catabolic enzymes, such as dioxygenases. Genome sequencing of several biodegradation-relevant microorganisms have provided the first whole-genome insights into the genetic background of the metabolic capability and biodegradation versatility of these organisms. Systems biology approaches are still in their infancy, but are becoming increasingly helpful to unravel, predict and quantify metabolic abilities within particular organisms or microbial consortia.

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