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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2009, 6(1), 278-309; doi:10.3390/ijerph6010278

Bacterial Degradation of Aromatic Compounds

Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering, University of Hawaii, 1955 East-West Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
Current address: Analytical Research Center, Korea Institute of Toxicology, 100 Jangdong, Yuseonggu, Daejeon 305-343, Korea
Current address: School of Agricultural Biotechnology, Seoul National University, San 56-1, Shinrim-9-dong, Kwanakgu, Seoul 151-742, Korea
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 6 November 2008 / Accepted: 6 January 2009 / Published: 13 January 2009
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biodegradability and Environmental Sciences)


Aromatic compounds are among the most prevalent and persistent pollutants in the environment. Petroleum-contaminated soil and sediment commonly contain a mixture of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic aromatics. Aromatics derived from industrial activities often have functional groups such as alkyls, halogens and nitro groups. Biodegradation is a major mechanism of removal of organic pollutants from a contaminated site. This review focuses on bacterial degradation pathways of selected aromatic compounds. Catabolic pathways of naphthalene, fluorene, phenanthrene, fluoranthene, pyrene, and benzo[a]pyrene are described in detail. Bacterial catabolism of the heterocycles dibenzofuran, carbazole, dibenzothiophene, and dibenzodioxin is discussed. Bacterial catabolism of alkylated PAHs is summarized, followed by a brief discussion of proteomics and metabolomics as powerful tools for elucidation of biodegradation mechanisms.
Keywords: Bioremediation; biodegradation; PAHs; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons Bioremediation; biodegradation; PAHs; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Seo, J.-S.; Keum, Y.-S.; Li, Q.X. Bacterial Degradation of Aromatic Compounds. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2009, 6, 278-309.

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