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Ciba Found Symp. 1988;140:3-15.

Cyanide utilization and degradation by microorganisms.

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Biological Laboratory, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK.


Various microorganisms can produce (cyanogenesis) or degrade cyanide. They degrade cyanide either to detoxify it, or to use it as a source of nitrogen for growth. Significant amounts of cyanide are formed as a secondary metabolite by a wide range of fungi and a few bacteria by decarboxylation of glycine. When cyanide has been formed by the snow mould fungus it is degraded by conversion to carbon dioxide and ammonia via an unknown pathway. In contrast, cyanogenic bacteria either do not further catabolize cyanide or they convert it into beta-cyanoalanine by addition to cysteine or O-acetylserine. Several non-cyanogenic fungi that are pathogens of cyanogenic plants are known to degrade cyanide by hydration to formamide by the enzyme cyanide hydratase. Such fungi can be immobilized and used in packed-cell columns to continuously detoxify cyanide. ICI Biological Products Business market a preparation of spray-dried fungal mycelia, 'CYCLEAR', to detoxify industrial wastes. Novo Industri have also introduced a cyanidase preparation to convert cyanide directly into formate and ammonia. Bacteria have been isolated that use cyanide as a source of nitrogen for growth. Because cyanide, as KCN or NaCN, is toxic for growth, the bacteria (Pseudomonas fluorescens) have to be grown in fed-batch culture with cyanide as the limiting nutrient. Cyanide is converted to carbon dioxide and ammonia (which is then assimilated) by an NADH-linked cyanide oxygenase system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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