Microbial growth on hydrocarbons: Terminal branching inhibits biodegradation

T. L. Schaeffer, S. G. Cantwell, J. L. Brown, D. S. Watt, R. R. Fall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


A variety of octane-utilizing bacteria and fungi were screened for growth on some terminally branched dimethyloctane derivatives to explore the effects of iso- and anteiso-termini on the biodegradability of such hydrocarbons. Of 27 microbial strains tested, only 9 were found to use any of the branched hydrocarbons tested as a sole carbon source, and then only those hydrocarbons containing at least one iso-terminus were susceptible to degradation. Anteiso- or isopropenyl termini prevented biodegradation. None of the hydrocarbonoclastic yeasts tested was able to utilize branched-hydrocarbon growth substrates. In the case of pseudomonads containing the OCT plasmid, whole-cell oxidation of n-octane was poorly induced by terminally branched dimethyloctanes. In the presence of a gratuitous inducer of the octane-oxidizing enzymes, the iso-branched 2,7-dimethyloctane was slowly oxidized by whole cells, whereas the anteiso-branched 3,6-dimethyloctane was not oxidized at all. This microbial sampling dramatically illustrated the deleterious effect of alkyl branching, especially anteiso-terminal branching, on the biodegradation of hydrocarbons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)742-746
Number of pages5
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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