Research Output
Microbial metabolism of xenobiotics: Fundamental and applied research
  The ability of microorganisms to metabolise xenobiotic compounds has received much attention due to the environmental persistence and toxicity of these chemicals. The microbial degradation of xenobiotics is seen as a cost effective method of removing these pollutants from the environment by a process now known as bioremediation. Microbial treatment of industrial effluents is also possible. Fundamental work has revealed that a wide variety of microorganisms are capable of degrading an equally wide range of organic pollutants. Pure and mixed cultures of microorganisms have been studied and degradation is observed under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Breakdown products have been found during work on the degradative pathways involved and toxicological assessments using bacteria and higher organisms (fish, plants) have been used to determine the toxicity of these intermediates. Many of the degradative genes responsible for xenobiotic metabolism are present on plasmids, transposons or are grouped in clusters on chromosomes. This provides clues to the evolution of degradative pathways and makes the task of genetic manipulation easier such that new microbial strains capable of efficiently degrading pollutants can be developed. Several enzymes involved in xenobiotic metabolism have been isolated and factors affecting their activity investigated. Genetically manipulated strains or naturally isolated organisms may be used in the treatment of industrial wastes or as inocula to enhance degradation in the environment. Environmental factors, including pH, temperature, bioavailability, nutrient supply and oxygen availability have been shown to affect xenobiotic biodegradation. These factors must be optimised to obtain a satisfactory microbial treatment process. Using information gained from fundamental research, bioremediation technology has been used to detoxify different contaminated environments and the results of field studies are very encouraging.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    31 January 1994

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  • Publisher


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  • Library of Congress:

    TP Chemical technology

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    660 Chemical engineering


Singleton, I. (1994). Microbial metabolism of xenobiotics: Fundamental and applied research. Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology, 59(1), 9-23. doi:10.1002/jctb.280590104



Microbial metabolism, xenobiotics, biodegradation, bioremediation, bioaugmentation,

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