Jackson Estuarine Laboratory


The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon phenanthrene was mineralized in two stages by soil, estuarine water, and sediment microbial populations. At high concentrations, phenanthrene was degraded, with the concomitant production of biomass and accumulation of Folin-Ciocalteau-reactive aromatic intermediates. Subsequent consumption of these intermediates resulted in a secondary increase in biomass. Analysis of intermediates by high-performance liquid chromatography, thin-layer chromatography, and UV absorption spectrometry showed 1-hydroxy-2-naphthoic acid (1H2NA) to be the predominant product. A less pronounced two-stage mineralization pattern was also observed by monitoring 14CO2 production from low concentrations (0.5 mg liter−1) of radiolabeled phenanthrene. Here, mineralization of 14C-labeled 1H2NA could explain the incremental 14CO2 produced during the later part of the incubations. Accumulation of 1H2NA by isolates obtained from enrichments was dependent on the initial phenanthrene concentration. The production of metabolites during polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon biodegradation is discussed with regard to its possible adaptive significance and its methodological implications.

Publication Date


Journal Title

Applied and Environmental Microbiology


American Society for Microbiology

Document Type



This is an article published by American Society for Microbiology in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, in 1988, available online: https://aem.asm.org/content/54/4/929