Aerobic degradation of polychlorinated biphenyls

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2005 Apr;67(2):170-91. doi: 10.1007/s00253-004-1810-4. Epub 2004 Dec 22.


The microbial degradation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) has been extensively studied in recent years. The genetic organization of biphenyl catabolic genes has been elucidated in various groups of microorganisms, their structures have been analyzed with respect to their evolutionary relationships, and new information on mobile elements has become available. Key enzymes, specifically biphenyl 2,3-dioxygenases, have been intensively characterized, structure/sequence relationships have been determined and enzymes optimized for PCB transformation. However, due to the complex metabolic network responsible for PCB degradation, optimizing degradation by single bacterial species is necessarily limited. As PCBs are usually not mineralized by biphenyl-degrading organisms, and cometabolism can result in the formation of toxic metabolites, the degradation of chlorobenzoates has received special attention. A broad set of bacterial strategies to degrade chlorobenzoates has recently been elucidated, including new pathways for the degradation of chlorocatechols as central intermediates of various chloroaromatic catabolic pathways. To optimize PCB degradation in the environment beyond these metabolic limitations, enhancing degradation in the rhizosphere has been suggested, in addition to the application of surfactants to overcome bioavailability barriers. However, further research is necessary to understand the complex interactions between soil/sediment, pollutant, surfactant and microorganisms in different environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Chlorobenzoates / metabolism
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins / metabolism
  • Oxygenases / metabolism
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / metabolism*
  • Rhodococcus / metabolism
  • Sphingomonas / metabolism
  • Surface-Active Agents / pharmacology


  • Chlorobenzoates
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins
  • Surface-Active Agents
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Oxygenases
  • biphenyl-2,3-dioxygenase