Export file:


  • RIS(for EndNote,Reference Manager,ProCite)
  • BibTex
  • Text


  • Citation Only
  • Citation and Abstract

Biofilms at work: Bio-, phyto- and rhizoremediation approaches for soils contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls

1 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA;
2 Department of Biology, Goucher College, Baltimore, MD 21204, USA

Special Issues: Biofilm engineering - Harnessing the power of beneficial biofilms

Organohalide contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been released into the environment for decades due to anthropogenic activities, but are also naturally produced in small amounts through volcanic eruptions and geochemical processes. Although toxic to humans and other organisms, the natural production of these compounds has resulted in the evolution of naturally occurring organohalide-respiring bacteria that possess the enzymes necessary to degrade PCB compounds to non-toxic products. The efficiency of PCB degradation can be improved by facilitating the formation of organohalide-respiring biofilms. During biofilm colonization on a surface or interface, bacteria are encased in an extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) or “slime,” which allows them to share nutrients and remain protected from environmental stresses. Effective bioremediation of PCBs involves facilitation of biofilm growth to promote cooperation between bacteria, which can be further enhanced by the presence of certain plant species. This review aims to give an overview of biofilm processes involved in the detoxification of PCBs including anaerobic and aerobic PCB degradation by bacteria as well as the ability of plants to stimulate microbial activity and degradation (rhizoremediation and phytoremediation).
  Article Metrics

Keywords polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); bioremediation; phytoremediation; rhizoremediation; anaerobic dechlorination; aerobic degradation; Dehalobium chlorocoercia (DF-1); Burkholderia xenovorans strain LB400; common tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum); switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

Citation: Merily Horwat, Meggie Tice, Birthe V. Kjellerup. Biofilms at work: Bio-, phyto- and rhizoremediation approaches for soils contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls. AIMS Bioengineering, 2015, 2(4): 324-334. doi: 10.3934/bioeng.2015.4.324


  • 1. Sowers KR, May HD (2013) In Situ Treatment of PCBs by Anaerobic Microbial Dechlorination in Aquatic Sediment: Are We There Yet? Curr Opin Biotechnol 24: 482-488.    
  • 2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2014) Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). Available at: http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/tsd/pcbs/.
  • 3. World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (1996) Air Quality Guidelines for Europe. 2nd Ed. WHO Regional Publications.
  • 4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (2014) ATSDR Case Studies in Environmental Medicine Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) Toxicity.
  • 5. Khairy MA, Weinstein MP, Lohmann R (2014) Trophodynamic Behavior of Hydrophobic Organic Contaminants in the Aquatic Food Web of a Tidal River. Environ Sci Technol 48: 12533-12542.    
  • 6. Wakeman TH, Themelis NJ (2001) A Basin-Wide Approach to Dredged Material Management in New York/New Jersey Harbor. J Hazard Mater 85: 1-13.    
  • 7. Kinney CA, Furlong ET, Zaugg SD, et al. (2006) Survey of Organic Wastewater Contaminants in Biosolids Destined for Land Application. Environ Sci Technol 40: 7207-7215.    
  • 8. Colborn T, Vom Saal FS, Soto AM (1993) Developmental Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Wildlife and Humans. Environ Health Perspect 101(5): 378-384.
  • 9. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2012) Superfund Site Information. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/cursites/.
  • 10. Payne RB, Fagervold SK, May HD, et al. (2013) Remediation of polychlorinated biphenyl impacted sediment by concurrent bioaugmentation with anaerobic halorespiring and aerobic degrading bactera. Environ Sci Technol 47(8): 3807-3815.
  • 11. Johansen HR, Alexander J, Rossland OJ, et al. (1996) PCDDs, PCDFs, and PCBs in human blood in relation to consumption of crabs from a contaminated fjord area in Norway. Environ Health Perspect 104: 756-764.    
  • 12. Yao M, Li Z, Zhang X, et al. (2014) Polychlorinated biphenyls in the centralized wastewater Tteatment plant in a chemical industry zone: source, distribution, and removal. J Chem 2014.
  • 13. Fuoco R, Giannarelli S, Onor M, et al. (2012) A snow/firn four-century record of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs) at Talos Dome (Antarctica). Microchem J 105: 133-141.    
  • 14. Fuoco R, Colombini M, Ceccarini A, et al. (1996) Polychlorobiphenyls in Antarctica. Microchem J 54(4): 384-390.
  • 15. Kjellerup BV, Paul P, Ghosh U, et al. (2012) Spatial Distribution of PCB Dechlorinating Bacteria and Activities in Contaminated Soil. Appl Environ Soil Sci 2012.
  • 16. Stoodley P, Sauer K, Davies DG, et al. (2002) Biofilms as Complex Differentiated Communities. Annu Rev Microbiol 56: 187-209.    
  • 17. Leys D, Adrian L, Smidt H (2013) Organohalide respiration: microbes breathing chlorinated molecules. Philos Trans R Soc London Ser B, Biol Sci 368: 2012316.
  • 18. Mercier A, Joulian C, Michel C, et al. (2014) Evaluation of Three Activated Carbons for Combined Adsorption and Biodegradation of PCBs in Aquatic Sediment. Water Res 59(0): 304-315.
  • 19. Meagher RB (2000) Phytoremediation of toxic elemental and organic pollutants. Curr Opin Plant Biol 3: 153-162.    
  • 20. Mackova M, Macek T, Ocenaskova J, et al. (1997) Biodegradation of polychlorinated biphenyls by plant cells. Int Biodeterior Biodegradation 39(4): 317-325.
  • 21. Passatore L, Rossetti S, Juwarkar AA, et al. (2014) Phytoremediation and bioremediation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): State of knowledge and research perspectives. J Hazard Mater 278: 189-202.    
  • 22. Zanaroli G, Negroni A, Häggblom MM, et al. (2015) Microbial dehalogenation of organohalides in marine and estuarine environments. Curr Opin Biotechnol 33: 287-295.    
  • 23. Cardon ZG, Gage DJ (2006) Resource Exchange in the Rhizosphere: Molecular Tools and the Microbial Perspective. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 37(1): 459-488.
  • 24. Van Aken B, Correa PA, Schnoor JL (2010) Phytoremediation of Polychlorinated Biphenyls: New Trends and Promises. Environ Sci Technol 44(8): 2767-2776.
  • 25. Leigh MB, et al. (2006) Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB)-Degrading Bacteria Associated with Trees in a PCB-Contaminated Site. Appl Environ Microbiol 72(4): 2331-2342.
  • 26. Erickson MD (1997) Analytical Chemistry of PCBs, 2 Ed. CRC Press; 90 p.
  • 27. Pieper DH, Seeger M (2008) Bacterial metabolism of polychlorinated biphenyls. J Mol Microbiol Biotechnol 15: 121-138.    
  • 28. Cooper M, et al. (2015) Anaerobic Microbial Transformation of Halogenated Aromatics and Fate Prediction Using Electron Density Modelling. Environ Sci Technol Technol 49: 6018-6028.    
  • 29. Bedard DL (2008) A Case Study for Microbial Biodegradation: Anaerobic Bacterial Reductive Dechlorination of Polychlorinated Biphenyls-From Sediment to Defined Medium. Annu Rev Microbiol 62: 253-270.    
  • 30. Vasilyeva GK, Strijakova ER (2007) Bioremediation of soils and sediments contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls. Microbiology 76(6): 639-653.
  • 31. Donlan RM (2002) Biofilms: microbial life on surfaces. Emerg Infect Dis 8(9): 881-890.
  • 32. Borja J, Taleon DM, Auresenia J, et al. (2005) Polychlorinated biphenyls and their biodegradation. Process Biochem 40(6): 1999-2013.
  • 33. Liu J, Schnoor JL (2008) Uptake and Translocation of Lesser-Chlorinated Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in Whole Hybrid Poplar Plants after Hydroponic Exposure. Chemosphere 73(10): 1608-1616.
  • 34. Pilon-Smits E (2005) Phytoremediation. Annu Rev Plant Biol 56: 15-39.    
  • 35. Rezek J, Macek T, Mackova M, et al. (2008) Hydroxy-PCBs, Methoxy-PCBs and Hydroxy-Methoxy-PCBs: Metabolites of Polychlorinated Biphenyls Formed In Vitro by Tobacco Cells. Environ Sci Technol 42(15): 5746-5751.
  • 36. Moeckel C, Thomas GO, Barber JL, et al. (2008) Uptake and storage of PCBs by plant cuticles. Environ Sci Technol 42: 100-105.    
  • 37. Wang W, Gorsuch JW, Hughes J (1997) Plants for Environmental Studies (CRC Press), p 484.
  • 38. O'Connor GA, Kiehl D, Eiceman GA, et al. (1990) Plant uptake of sludge-borne PCBs. J Environ Qual 19: 113-118.
  • 39. Mackova M, et al. (2009) Phyto/rhizoremediation studies using long-term PCB-contaminated soil. Environ Sci Pollut Res 16: 817-829.    
  • 40. Campanella BF, Bock C, Schröder P (2002) Phytoremediation to increase the degradation of PCBs and PCDD/Fs. Environ Sci Pollut Res 9(1): 73-85.
  • 41. Pivetz BE (2001) Phytoremediation of Contaminated Soil and Ground Water at Hazardous Waste Sites. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.
  • 42. Kuiper I, Lagendijk EL, Bloemberg GV, et al. (2004) Rhizoremediation: A Beneficial Plant-Microbe Interaction. Mol Plant-Microbe Interact 17(1): 6-15.
  • 43. Hall-Stoodley L, Costerton JW, Stoodley P (2004) Bacterial biofilms: from the natural environment to infectious diseases. Nat Rev Microbiol 2(2): 95-108.
  • 44. Macek T, Mackova M, Kas J (2000) Exploitation of plants for the removal of organics in environmental remediation. Biotechnol Adv 18: 23-34.    
  • 45. Liang Y, Meggo R, Hu D, et al. (2015) Microbial community analysis of switchgrass planted and unplanted soil microcosms displaying PCB dechlorination. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 99: 6515-6526.    
  • 46. Field J, Sierra-Alvarez R (2008) Microbial transformation and degradation of polychlorinated biphenyls. Environ Pollut 155: 1-12.    
  • 47. Fagervold SK, Watts JEM, May HD, et al. (2005) Sequential Reductive Dechlorination of Meta-Chlorinated Polychlorinated Biphenyl Congeners in Sediment Microcosms by Two Different Chloroflexi Phylotypes. Appl Environ Microbiol 71(12): 8085-8090.
  • 48. Vasilyeva GK, Strijakova ER, Shea PJ (2006) Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Viable Methods of Soil and Water Pollution Monitoring, Protection and Remediation. Springer; p 309-322.


This article has been cited by

  • 1. Hossein Farraji, Nastaein Qamaruz Zaman, Mohammad Ali Zahed, Hamed Faraji, , Handbook of Research on Inventive Bioremediation Techniques, 2017, chapter 9, 213, 10.4018/978-1-5225-2325-3.ch009
  • 2. John Pichtel, , Biofilms in Plant and Soil Health, 2017, 357, 10.1002/9781119246329.ch19
  • 3. Anjney Sharma, Hena Jamali, Anukool Vaishnav, Balendu Shekhar Giri, Alok Kumar Srivastava, , New and Future Developments in Microbial Biotechnology and Bioengineering: Microbial Biofilms, 2020, 205, 10.1016/B978-0-444-64279-0.00015-3

Reader Comments

your name: *   your email: *  

Copyright Info: 2015, Birthe V. Kjellerup, et al., licensee AIMS Press. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licese (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

Download full text in PDF

Export Citation

Copyright © AIMS Press All Rights Reserved