Utilization of diverse organophosphorus pollutants by marine bacteria

Dragana Despotovic, Einav Aharon, Olena Trofimyuk, Artem Dubovetskyi, Kesava Phaneendra Cherukuri, Yacov Ashani, Or Eliason, Martin Sperfeld, Haim Leader, Andrea Castelli, Laura Fumagalli, Yishai Levin, Liam Longo, Einat Segev, Dan Tawfik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anthropogenic organophosphorus compounds (AOPCs), such as phosphotriesters, are used extensively as plasticizers, flame retardants, nerve agents, and pesticides. To date, only a handful of soil bacteria bearing a phosphotriesterase (PTE), the key enzyme in the AOPC degradation pathway, have been identified. Therefore, the extent to which bacteria are capable of utilizing AOPCs as a phosphorus source, and how widespread this adaptation may be, remains unclear. Marine environments with phosphorus limitation and increasing levels of pollution by AOPCs may drive the emergence of PTE activity. Here, we report the utilization of diverse AOPCs by four model marine bacteria and 17 bacterial isolates from the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. To unravel the details of AOPC utilization, two PTEs from marine bacteria were isolated and characterized, with one of the enzymes belonging to a protein family that, to our knowledge, has never before been associated with PTE activity. When expressed in Escherichia coli with a phosphodiesterase, a PTE isolated from a marine bacterium enabled growth on a pesticide analog as the sole phosphorus source. Utilization of AOPCs may provide bacteria a source of phosphorus in depleted environments and offers a prospect for the bioremediation of a pervasive class of anthropogenic pollutants.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2203604119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number32
StatePublished - 9 Aug 2022


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