Anaerobic degradation of the aromatic hydrocarbon biphenyl by a sulfate-reducing enrichment culture

Draženka Selesi, Rainer U. Meckenstock

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37 Scopus citations


The aromatic hydrocarbon biphenyl is a widely distributed environmental pollutant. Whereas the aerobic degradation of biphenyl has been extensively studied, knowledge of the anaerobic biphenyl-oxidizing bacteria and their biochemical degradation pathway is scarce. Here, we report on an enrichment culture that oxidized biphenyl completely to carbon dioxide under sulfate-reducing conditions. The biphenyl-degrading culture was dominated by two distinct bacterial species distantly affiliated with the Gram-positive genus Desulfotomaculum. Moreover, the enrichment culture has the ability to grow with benzene and a mixture of anthracene and phenanthrene as the sole source of carbon, but here the microbial community composition differed substantially from the biphenyl-grown culture. Biphenyl-4-carboxylic acid was identified as an intermediate in the biphenyl-degrading culture. Moreover, 4-fluorobiphenyl was converted cometabolically with biphenyl because in addition to the biphenyl-4-carboxylic acid, a compound identified as its fluorinated analog was observed. These findings are consistent with the general pattern in the anaerobic catabolism of many aromatic hydrocarbons where carboxylic acids are found to be central metabolites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-93
Number of pages8
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • BTEX
  • Biodegradation
  • Contamination
  • Desulfotomaculum
  • PAH


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