Enhancing nitrobenzene biodegradation in aquatic systems: Feasibility of using plain soil as an inoculant and effects of adding ascorbic acid and peptone

Tian Li, Zhi F. Zhou, Ping Zhang, Kun Qian, Tian C. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Nitrobenzene (NB) is recalcitrant to microbial biodegradation due to the electron-deficient character of the nitro group (NO2−). Prior work has found that the reductant could enhance NB biodegradation by providing excess electron donors. However, the existing theory couldn't explain the increase-and-decrease pattern of the NB biodegradation rate with an increase in a reductant concentration. Our results suggest that the reductant affects NB biodegradation by two mechanisms: the available electron donors and the stimulation or inhibition of biomass growth, which are linked by a pseudo-first-order reaction kinetics. In addition, the results showed that directly inoculating the plain soil into the aquatic system and then allowing the synergistic effect of the organic reductant (ascorbic acid) and the substrate (peptone) enhance NB biodegradation. Employing the new method, 200 mg L−1 NB was transformed in 72 h. GC–MS analysis detected two novel intermediate metabolites, indicating that NB was degraded into aniline and further transformed into acetanilide and 9-octadecenamide before its mineralization. This study sheds light on how to exploit the synergistic effects of the availability of excess electron donors and biomass growth by controlling the reductant and a substrate in the right concentration range (e.g., ascorbic acid < 0.8 mgL−1 + peptone).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number124806
StatePublished - Jan 2020



  • Biodegradation
  • Kinetics
  • Nitrobenzene
  • Pathway
  • Synergistic effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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