Use of white rot fungi in the degradation of environmental chemicals

Manish M. Shah, David P. Barr, Namhyun Chung, Steven D. Aust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


White rot fungi have been shown to mineralize a wide variety of environmental pollutants. These fungi secrete a number of enzymes that are involved in its unique ability to degrade lignin, the structural component of woody plants. Lignin is a very complex heteropolymer that can only be degraded by white rot fungi. Degradation is complete without energy value to the fungus. The evolution of this ability has apparently given the organism the ability to degrade structurally diverse and normally very recalcitrant environmental pollutants such as DDT, PCB, benzo(a)pyrene, TNT, etc. Some of the major enzymes that are secreted by the fungi are peroxidases with unique properties. In addition to their ability to catalyze a wide variety of oxidations, they can also catalyze indirect oxidations and reductions. The fungi synthesize and secrete hydrogen peroxide to activate the peroxidases, veratryl alcohol to serve as a free radical intermediate for indirect oxidations, and electron donors, such as oxalate, which with veratryl alcohol catalyze reductions. Reductions are often required for subsequent oxidation of chemicals by the peroxidases. The enzymes can also reduce molecular oxygen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-501
Number of pages9
JournalToxicology Letters
Issue numberC
Publication statusPublished - 1992 Dec
Externally publishedYes


  • Hydroxyl radicals
  • Lignin
  • Lignin peroxidases
  • Superoxide
  • White rot fungi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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