Degradation of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) fluorene is retarded in a Scots pine ectomycorrhizosphere

David R. Genney*, Ian J. Alexander, Ken Killham, Andy A. Meharg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are an important class of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the environment and accumulate in forest soils. These soils are often dominated by ectomycorrhizal (EcM) roots, but little is known about how EcM fungi degrade PAHs, or the overall effect of field colonized EcM roots on the fate of PAHs. The ability of eight EcM fungi to degrade PAHs in liquid culture spiked with 14C labelled PAHs was investigated. Microcosms were used to determine the impact of naturally colonized mycorrhizal pine seedlings on PAH mineralization and volatilization. Only two EcM fungi (Thelephora terrestris and Laccaria laccata) degraded at least one PAH and none were able to mineralize the PAHs in pure culture. Where degradation occurred, the compounds were only mono-oxygenated. EcM pine seedlings did not alter naphthalene mineralization or volatilization but retarded fluorene mineralization by 35% compared with unplanted, ectomycorrhizosphere soil inoculated, microcosms. The EcM fungi possessed limited PAH degrading abilities, which may explain why EcM dominated microcosms retarded fluorene mineralization. This observation is considered in relation to the 'Gadgil-effect', where retarded litter decomposition has been observed in the presence of EcM roots.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)641-649
Number of pages9
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2004


  • Degradation
  • Ectomycorrhizal fungus
  • Gadgil-effect
  • PAH
  • Pinus sylvestris

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry


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