Multisubstrate biodegradation kinetics for binary and complex mixtures of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Christopher D. Knightes, Catherine Anne Peters

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36 Scopus citations


Biodegradation kinetics were studied for binary and complex mixtures of nine polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs): Naphthalene, 1-methylnaphthalene, 2-methylnaphthalene, 2-ethylnaphthalene, phenanthrene, anthracene, pyrene, fluorene, and fluoranthene. Discrepancies between the observed biodegradation rates and those predicted by a sole-substrate model indicate that significant substrate interactions occurred in both the binary and complex-mixture experiments. For all compounds except naphthalene, biodegradation was enhanced. The observations were compared to predictions from two multisubstrate biodegradation kinetic models: One that accounts for competitive inhibition, and one that does not. Both models are fully predictive in that parameters had been determined from an independent set of sole-substrate experiments. In the binary experiments, the major multisubstrate effect was biomass enhancement as a result of growth on naphthalene. Substrate interactions were orders of magnitude larger for most compounds in the complex mixtures, but significant competitive inhibition effects counteracted some of the biomass enhancement effect. The present study has demonstrated that the sole-substrate model is inadequate to describe multisubstrate biodegradation kinetics for a broad range of PAH mixtures. Whereas the multisubstrate model without inhibition did an adequate job of predicting the observed effects in some cases, we advocate the use of the multisubstrate model with inhibition for similar modeling efforts in light of the evidence that the model was correct more often than not. Theory supports its use because of the common enzyme pathways for biodegradation of PAHs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1746-1756
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Environmental Chemistry


  • Biodegradation
  • Competitive inhibition
  • Kinetics
  • Mixtures
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons


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