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Microbial Degradation of Aromatic Hydrocarbons


Microbial Degradation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) in Laboratory and Field Conditions

Tech Area / Field

  • BIO-REM/Bioremediation/Biotechnology
  • BIO-INF/Bioinformatics/Biotechnology
  • ENV-RED/Remediation and Decontamination/Environment

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Rudneva V Ya

Leading Institute
State Research Center for Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Russia, Moscow reg., Obolensk

Supporting institutes

  • Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms, Russia, Moscow reg., Puschino


  • Texas A&M University, USA, TX, College Station\nQueen's University of Belfast / Questor Centre, UK, Belfast

Project summary

The increasing extent of chemical pollution of the environment is one of main reasons of the current ecological crises. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), products resulted from incomplete combustion of fuels and organic compounds, belong to the most hazardous pollutants.

Certain of low molecular PAH are highly toxic, whereas the majority of high-molecular aromatic hydrocarbons are cancerogenic, teratogenic and genotoxic. In recent years, much attention has been devoted to PAHs because of a severe hazard they may pose to the health of people and the environment. At present, microbial degradation of persistent xenobiotics, including PAH, in the environment attracts special attention. However, the wide application of PAH - degrading microorganisms is restrained by scarce basic and applied works on physiology, genetics and ecology of these microorganisms, as well as by limited research in the field of soil bioremediation.

The risk of contamination of the environment with PAH, the prospects for using microbiological methods for its purification, and the limited basic and applied research in this area have given impetus to this proposal. The objective of the project is to establish a collection containing new PAH-degrading valuable microorganisms, to study physiological, genetic and ecological aspects of microbial degradation of PAH, and to develop modern approaches to PAH-polluted soil bioremediation. This work will lead to knowledge for elaborating efficient industrial biological technologies of purification of the PAH-polluted environment. The following tasks will be pursued:

1. Screen and select new PAH degrading microorganisms (bacteria, fungi).

2. Study physiology of PAH degrading microorganisms.
3. Study mechanisms of genetic control, as well as a structure-function organization of genetic systems responsible for PAH degradation of the most potent strains.
4. Construct a mathematical model of on-bench PAH biodegradation.
5. Assess PAH biodegradation in soil; improve the activity of PAH degrading microorganisms.

Expected Results:

– collection of natural microorganisms (bacteria, fungi) capable of degrading high molecular PAH. The collection will also consist of strains of psychotrophs, halotolerants and bioemulsifiers.

– data on physiology of new PAH degrading microorganisms (effects of different factors on PAH biodegradation, biochemical pathways of PAH degradation, taxonomy of the most promising strains);

– data on mechanisms of genetic control; data on the structure-function organization of genetic systems responsible for PAH degradation; strains with a wider spectrum activity against PAH will be obtained through their adaptation selection, conjugated plasmid transfer and cloning of key genes involved into PAH biodegradation;

– methods for monitoring of genes responsible for PAH degradation in laboratory soil model systems and microfield tests;

– data from mathematical modeling of PAH biodegradation using different systems (batch cultivation and soil models) under variable environmental conditions;

– data on optimization of conditions of PAH biodegradation by strains and microbial consortia under laboratory and field conditions;

– results from microfield tests of the most efficient PAH degrading microorganisms and their consortia;

– data on the possibility of stimulating indigenous microorganisms capable of degrading PAH;

– licensing PAH degrading strains;

– recommendations with respect to applying procedures for PAH-polluted soil bioremediation.

The Project is an extended continuation of investigations that have been initiated at SRCAM in the framework of Project #119-95 (ISTC) "Development of Biotechnology Techniques for Elimination of Environmental Oil Pollutions".

Scientists of the Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms (RAS) have long experience in conducting basic investigations in the field of biodegradation of different persistent xenobiotics, including PAH. Therefore, both combined efforts of scientists from SRCAM and IBPhM and their experience in the area of protection of the environment will promote meeting goals of the project.

Planned works will be also conducted in conjunction with foreign collaborators who are expertise in microbial PAH degradation.

The project will allow Russian scientists and engineers engaged previously in developing means for BW protection, to re-direct their knowledge and skills to environmental problems resulting from technogenic pollutants.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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