Environmental science & technology

Peroxidase-mediated removal of a polychlorinated biphenyl using natural organic matter as the sole cosubstrate.

PMID 17328199


Natural organic matter (NOM) of hydroxylated aromatic character can undergo catalyst-mediated self-coupling reactions to form larger molecular aggregates. Indeed, such reactions are central to natural humification processes. Nonhydroxylated persistent aromatic contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are, conversely, inert with respect to such reactions. It is here demonstrated however that significant coincidental coupling and removal of a representative aqueous-phase PCB occurs during horseradish peroxidase (HRP)-catalyzed oxidative coupling reactions of a representative aquatic NOM. Experiments with Suwannee River fulvic acid as a reactive cosubstrate indicate that 2,2'-dichlorobiphenyl (PCB-4) is covalently incorporated into aggregating NOM, likely through fortuitous cross-coupling reactions. To develop a better understanding of potential mechanisms by which the observed phenomenon occurs, two hydroxylated monomeric cosubstrates of known molecular structure, phenol and 4-methoxyphenol, were investigated as alternative cosubstrates. PCB-4 removal appears from these experiments to relate to certain molecular characteristics of the native cosubstrate molecule (reactivity with HRP, favorability for radical attack, and hydrophobicity) and its associated phenoxy radical (stability). The findings reveal potential pathways by which PCBs, and perhaps other polyaromatic contaminants, may be naturally transformed and detoxified in nature. The results further provide a foundation for development of enhanced-humification strategies for remediation of PCB-contaminated environmental systems.

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