Indene, indane and naphthalene in a mixture with BTEX affect aerobic compound biodegradation kinetics and indigenous microbial community development

Dilan Camille Aydin*, Suzanne Catherina Faber, Valentina Attiani, Jordie Eskes, Andrea Aldas-Vargas, Tim Grotenhuis, Huub Rijnaarts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene) are common pollutants often found in former gasworks sites together with some other contaminants like indene, indane and naphthalene (Ie, Ia, N). This study aimed to evaluate the inhibitory or stimulative substrate interactions between BTEX, and Ie, Ia, N during aerobic biodegradation. For this, batch bottles, containing originally anaerobic subsurface sediments, groundwater and indigenous microorganisms from a contaminated former gasworks site, were spiked with various substrate combinations (BTEX, BTEXIe, BTEXIa, BTEXN, BTEXIeIa, BTEXIeN, BTEXIaN, BTEXIeIaN). Subsequently concentrations were monitored over time. For the BTEXIeIaN mixture, initial concentrations were between 1 and 5 mg L-1, and all compounds were completely degraded by the microbial consortia within 39 days of incubation. The experimental data were fitted to a first order kinetic degradation model for interpretation of inhibition/stimulation between the compounds. Results showed that indene, indane, and naphthalene inhibited the degradation of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, o-xylene, with benzene being the most affected. M/p-xylene is the only compound whose biodegradation is stimulated by the presence of indene and indane (individually or mixed) but inhibited by the presence of naphthalene. 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing revealed differentiation in the microbial communities within the batches with different substrate mixtures, especially within the two microbial groups Micrococcaceae and Commamonaceae. Indene had more effect on the BTEX microbial community than indane or naphthalene and the presence of indene increased the relative abundance of Micrococcaceae family. In conclusion, co-presence of various pollutants leads to differentiation in degradation processes as well as in microbial community development. This sheds some light on the underlying reasons for that organic compounds present in mixtures in the subsurface of former gasworks sites are either recalcitrant or subjective towards biodegradation, and this understanding helps to further improve the bioremediation of such sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number139761
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023


  • BTEX
  • Indane
  • Indene
  • Micrococcaceae
  • Naphthalene
  • Substrate interactions


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