Mechanisms of degradation of synthetic chemicals

Lawrence P Wackett, Lynda B Ellis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


The fate of chemicals in the environment is largely dependent upon microbial biodegradation, or a lack thereof. Biodegradation derives from the extremely broad types of metabolic reactions catalyzed by microbes. Diverse microbial metabolism is represented in the University of Minnesota Biocatalysis/Biodegradation Database (UM-BBD), which is freely available on the Web. The UM-BBD encompasses metabolism of 60 organic functional groups. On average, there are four reaction types for each functional group. Each of these reaction types underlies a metabolic rule. Metabolic rules have formed the basis of a computational system used to predict the biodegradative pathways of chemicals. Many pathways may be predicted. To deal with pathway combinatorial explosion, a rule-prioritization system has been implemented. Additional tools are under development to better understand the underlying characteristics of biodegradative metabolism with the hope of improving biodegradation prediction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTransformation Products of Synthetic Chemicals in the Environment
EditorsAlistair Boxall
Number of pages14
StatePublished - Sep 18 2009

Publication series

NameHandbook of Environmental Chemistry, Volume 2: Reactions and Processes
Volume2 P
ISSN (Print)1433-6839


  • Biodegradation
  • Database
  • Metabolism
  • Microbes
  • Pathways
  • Prediction


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