PAH bioremediation with Rhodococcus rhodochrous ATCC 21198: Impact of cell immobilization and surfactant use on PAH treatment and post-remediation toxicity

J Hazard Mater. 2024 May 15:470:134109. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2024.134109. Epub 2024 Mar 21.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are prevalent environmental contaminants that are harmful to ecological and human health. Bioremediation is a promising technique for remediating PAHs in the environment, however bioremediation often results in the accumulation of toxic PAH metabolites. The objectives of this research were to demonstrate the cometabolic treatment of a mixture of PAHs by a pure bacterial culture, Rhodococcus rhodochrous ATCC 21198, and investigate PAH metabolites and toxicity. Additionally, the surfactant Tween ® 80 and cell immobilization techniques were used to enhance bioremediation. Total PAH removal ranged from 70-95% for fluorene, 44-89% for phenanthrene, 86-97% for anthracene, and 6.5-78% for pyrene. Maximum removal was achieved with immobilized cells in the presence of Tween ® 80. Investigation of PAH metabolites produced by 21198 revealed a complex mixture of hydroxylated compounds, quinones, and ring-fission products. Toxicity appeared to increase after bioremediation, manifesting as mortality and developmental effects in embryonic zebrafish. 21198's ability to rapidly transform PAHs of a variety of molecular structures and sizes suggests that 21198 can be a valuable microorganism for catalyzing PAH remediation. However, implementing further treatment processes to address toxic PAH metabolites should be pursued to help lower post-remediation toxicity in future studies.

Keywords: Bacteria; Cometabolism; Hydrogel beads; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Tween ® 80.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodegradation, Environmental*
  • Cells, Immobilized* / metabolism
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / drug effects
  • Environmental Pollutants / chemistry
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Phenanthrenes / chemistry
  • Phenanthrenes / metabolism
  • Phenanthrenes / toxicity
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons* / chemistry
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons* / metabolism
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons* / toxicity
  • Polysorbates / chemistry
  • Polysorbates / toxicity
  • Rhodococcus* / metabolism
  • Surface-Active Agents* / chemistry
  • Surface-Active Agents* / metabolism
  • Surface-Active Agents* / toxicity
  • Zebrafish*


  • Surface-Active Agents
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Polysorbates
  • phenanthrene
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Phenanthrenes