Indexed on: 20 Oct '09Published on: 20 Oct '09Published in: Chemosphere
The phenylurea herbicide isoproturon, 3-(4-isopropylphenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea (IPU), was found to be rapidly mineralized by a bacterial culture isolated from an agricultural soil regularly exposed to IPU. Molecular analysis of the bacterial culture by DNA fingerprinting, cloning and sequencing of the 16S rRNA genes revealed that it consisted of six different members among whom the dominant was related to Sphingomonas sp. Six bacterial strains belonging to genera Ancylobacter, Pseudomonas, Stenotrophomonas, Methylobacterium, Variovorax and Agrobacterium were isolated from the IPU-degrading culture. None of these were able to degrade IPU in pure culture and only the intact culture sustained the ability to mineralize IPU. The composition of the culture appeared stable suggesting that yet unknown interactions are involved in the IPU mineralization. IPU degradation involved the transitory accumulation of three known IPU metabolites 3-(4-isopropylphenyl)-1-methylurea, 3-(4-isopropylphenyl)-urea, and 4-isopropylaniline and their further degradation. Thus, it indicates a metabolic pathway initiated by two successive N-demethylations, followed by cleavage of the urea side chain. This culture did not degrade other structurally related phenylurea herbicides. The degrading activity of the bacterial culture was deeply influenced by the pH, being completely inhibited at pH 5.5 and optimal at pH 7.5.