Potential role of oxidative exoenzymes of the extremophilic fungus Pestalotiopsis palmarum BM-04 in biotransformation of extra-heavy crude oil


  • Funding Information This research was supported by the following Researcher Projects: (i) Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (MCTI)-FONACIT No. G-2005000440, (ii) MCTI-Misión Ciencia Sub-Proyecto 3 No. 2007001401 and (iii) MCTI-FONACIT No. G-2011000330.

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Large amount of drilling waste associated with the expansion of the Orinoco Oil Belt (OOB), the biggest proven reserve of extra-heavy crude oil (EHCO) worldwide, is usually impregnated with EHCO and highly salinized water-based drilling fluids. Oxidative exoenzymes (OE) of the lignin-degrading enzyme system (LDS) of fungi catalyse the oxidation of a wide range of toxic pollutants. However, very little evidences on fungal degradation or biotransformation of EHCO have been reported, which contain high amounts of asphaltenes and its biodegradation rate is very limited. The aims of this work were to study the ability of Pestalotiopsis palmarum BM-04 to synthesize OE, its potential to biotransform EHCO and to survive in extreme environmental conditions. Enzymatic studies of the LDS showed the ability of this fungus to overproduce high amounts of laccase (LACp) in presence of wheat bran or lignin peroxidase (LIPp) with EHCO as sole carbon and energy source (1300 U mgP−1 in both cases). FT-IR spectroscopy with Attenuated Total Reflectance (ATR) analysis showed the enzymatic oxidation of carbon and sulfur atoms in both maltenes and asphaltenes fractions of biotreated EHCO catalysed by cell-free laccase-enriched OE using wheat bran as inducer. UV-visible spectrophotometry analysis revealed the oxidation of the petroporphyrins in the asphaltenes fraction of biotreated EHCO. Tolerance assays showed the ability of this fungus to grow up to 50 000 p.p.m. of EHCO and 2000 mM of NaCl. These results suggest that P. palmarum BM-04 is a hopeful alternative to be used in remediation processes in extreme environmental conditions of salinity and EHCO contamination, such as the drilling waste from the OOB.