Metagenomic insights into the microbial cooperative networks of a benz(a)anthracene-7,12-dione degrading community from a creosote-contaminated soil

Sara N. Jiménez-Volkerink, Maria Jordán, Hauke Smidt, Cristina Minguillón, Joaquim Vila*, Magdalena Grifoll

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Genotoxicity of PAH-contaminated soils can eventually increase after bioremediation due to the formation and accumulation of polar transformation products, mainly oxygenated PAHs (oxy-PAHs). Biodegradation of oxy-PAHs has been described in soils, but information on the microorganisms and mechanisms involved is still scarce. Benz(a)anthracene-7,12-dione (BaAQ), a transformation product from benz(a)anthracene frequently detected in soils, presents higher genotoxic potential than its parent PAH. Here, using sand-in-liquid microcosms we identified a specialized BaAQ-degrading subpopulation in a PAH-contaminated soil. A BaAQ-degrading microbial consortium was obtained by enrichment in sand-in-liquid cultures with BaAQ as sole carbon source, and its metagenomic analysis identified members of Sphingobium, Stenotrophomonas, Pusillimonas, Olivibacter, Pseudomonas, Achromobacter, and Hyphomicrobiales as major components. The integration of data from metabolomic and metagenomic functional gene analyses of the consortium revealed that the BaAQ metabolic pathway was initiated by Baeyer-Villiger monooxygenases (BVMOs). The presence of plasmid pANTQ-1 in the metagenomic sequences, identified in a previous multi-omic characterization of a 9,10-anthraquinone-degrading isolate recovered from the same soil, suggested the occurrence of a horizontal gene transfer event. Further metagenomic analysis of the BaAQ-degrading consortium also provided insights into the potential roles and interactions within the consortium members. Several potential auxotrophies were detected, indicating that relevant nutritional interdependencies and syntrophic associations were taking place within the community members, not only to provide suitable carbon and energy sources, but also to supply essential nutrients and cofactors. Our work confirms the essential role that BVMO may play as a detoxification mechanism to mitigate the risk posed by oxy-PAH formation during bioremediation of contaminated soils.

Original languageEnglish
Article number167832
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2024


  • 7,12-benz(a)anthraquinone
  • Bacterial consortium
  • Baeyer-Villiger
  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Microbial interactions
  • Oxy-PAHs


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