Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 103, Issue 1, pp 53–68 | Cite as

Roles of saprotrophic fungi in biodegradation or transformation of organic and inorganic pollutants in co-contaminated sites

  • Andrea Ceci
  • Flavia Pinzari
  • Fabiana Russo
  • Anna Maria PersianiEmail author
  • Geoffrey Michael Gadd


For decades, human activities, industrialization, and agriculture have contaminated soils and water with several compounds, including potentially toxic metals and organic persistent xenobiotics. The co-occurrence of those toxicants poses challenging environmental problems, as complicated chemical interactions and synergies can arise and lead to severe and toxic effects on organisms. The use of fungi, alone or with bacteria, for bioremediation purposes is a growing biotechnology with high potential in terms of cost-effectiveness, an environmental-friendly perspective and feasibility, and often representing a sustainable nature-based solution. This paper reviews different ecological, metabolic, and physiological aspects involved in fungal bioremediation of co-contaminated soils and water systems, not only addressing best methods and approaches to assess the simultaneous presence of metals and organic toxic compounds and their consequences on provided ecosystem services but also the interactions between fungi and bacteria, in order to suggest further study directions in this field.


Co-contamination Organic pollutants Potentially toxic metals Soil saprotrophic fungi Xenobiotics Biodegradation Biotransformation 



Geomicrobiology Group (GMG) gratefully acknowledges financial support in his laboratory from the Natural Environment Research Council, UK.


Research support in the GMG is received from the Natural Environment Research Council, UK (NE/M010910/1 (TeaSe); NE/M011275/1 (COG3)).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical statement

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratorio di Biodiversità dei Funghi, Dipartimento di Biologia AmbientaleSapienza Università di RomaRomeItaly
  2. 2.Centro di Ricerca Agricoltura e AmbienteConsiglio per la Ricerca in agricoltura e l’analisi dell’Economia Agraria (CREA-AA)RomeItaly
  3. 3.Department of Life SciencesNatural History MuseumLondonUK
  4. 4.Geomicrobiology Group, School of Life SciencesUniversity of DundeeDundeeScotland, UK

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