Biodegradation and Bioremediation: An Introduction

  • Víctor de LorenzoEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology book series (HHLM)


The scientific interest of the fate of environmental pollutants generated by industrial and urban activities is not only about the pursuit of ways to foster the mitigation or ideally the complete removal from the afflicted sites. It also provides insights on how environmental microorganisms evolve new molecular devices for first tolerating and then catabolizing many of such otherwise toxic molecules. Along with resistance to antibiotics, emergence of fresh biodegradative routes for new compounds is one of the most conspicuous cases of contemporary biological evolution in real time. Understanding the rules of such evolution thus provides new principles for predicting – and in case accelerating – biochemical adaptation to novel chemical structures. These phenomena occur in space and time and also at very different scales depending on the nature and dimension of the pollutants at stake. The impact of contaminants that received considerable attention decades ago is decreasing in many cases owing to better industrial procedures along with growing environmental awareness and legal regulations. Alas, the last decade has witnessed also the emergence of other types of contaminants (in particular greenhouse gases, plastics, and micropollutants) that threaten not just specific sites but also the functioning of the planet’s homeostasis at a global scale. This state of affairs calls for new bioremediation strategies that take into account the multiscale complexity involved in possible interventions much beyond the focus on specific biodegradative pathways. Fortunately, the environmental microbiome and the possibilities of engineering it with the tools of Systems and Synthetic Biology remains the best resource to tackle the phenomenal challenge of preserving the biosphere in good shape for the future generations.



This work was funded by the HELIOS Project of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness BIO 2015-66960-C3-2-R (MINECO/FEDER), ARISYS (ERC-2012-ADG-322797), EmPowerPutida (EU-H2020-BIOTEC-2014-2015-6335536), MADONNA (H2020-FET-OPEN-RIA-2017-1-766975), Contracts of the European Union, and InGEMICS-CM (B2017/BMD-3691) contract of the Comunidad de Madrid.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Systems Biology ProgramCentro Nacional de Biotecnología-CSICMadridSpain

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