Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of compounds that pose many health threats to human and animal life. They occur in nature as a result of incomplete combustion of organic matter, as well as from many anthropogenic sources including cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust. PAHs have been reported to cause liver damage, red blood cell damage and a variety of cancers. Because of this, methods to reduce the amount of PAHs in the environment are continuously being sought. The purpose of this study was to find soil bacteria capable of degrading high molecular weight PAHs, such as pyrene (Pyr) and benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), which contain more than three benzene rings and so persist in the environment. Bacillus subtilis
, identified by fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) analysis, was isolated from PAH contaminated soil. Because it grew in the presence of 33μg/ml each of pyrene, 1-AP and 1-HP, its biodegradation capabilities were assessed. It was found that after a four-day incubation period at 30oC in 20μg/ml pyrene or benzo[a]pyrene, B. subtilis
was able to transform approximately 40% and 50% pyrene and benzo[a]pyrene, respectively. This is the first report implicating B. subtilis
in PAH degradation. Whether or not the intermediates resulting from the transformation are more toxic than their parent compounds, and whether B. subtilis
is capable of mineralizing pyrene or benzo[a]pyrene to carbon dioxide and water, remains to be evaluated.