Superfund Research Program
Molecular Insight into Dioxin Degradation by Microbes and Microbial Communities
Project Leader: Gerben J. Zylstra (Rutgers University)
Grant Number: P42ES004911
Funding Period: 2013-2020
- Project Summary
The ability of microbes to degrade dioxin is not well understood. Only a few organisms in pure culture are known to degrade dioxin. Gerben Zylstra, Ph.D., and his team have taken a multidisciplinary approach to analyze Sphingomonas wittichii RW1’s ability to completely metabolize the carbon skeleton of dibenzo-p-dioxin. The project researchers determined that the ability of RW1 to degrade dioxin requires catabolic pathway genes encoded by both the chromosome and the large catabolic plasmid pSWIT02. Using a combination of genomic and genetic tools, the team has also identified non-metabolic pathway genes encoding enzymes that may enhance the ability of RW1 to degrade dioxin. The researchers have determined RW1’s ability to degrade dioxin adsorbed to clays and activated carbon (biochars) all of which will lead to enhanced remediation efforts. Technologies are being developed to analyze dioxin-like genes in the environment and to analyze the metagenome of various soil communities, including those enriched for dioxin degraders.