Understanding plant-microbe interactions for phytoremediation of petroleum-polluted soil

Ming Nie*, Yijing Wang, Jiayi Yu, Ming Xiao, Lifen Jiang, Ji Yang, Changming Fang, Jiakuan Chen, Bo Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Plant-microbe interactions are considered to be important processes determining the efficiency of phytoremediation of petroleum pollution, however relatively little is known about how these interactions are influenced by petroleum pollution. In this experimental study using a microcosm approach, we examined how plant ecophysiological traits, soil nutrients and microbial activities were influenced by petroleum pollution in Phragmites australis, a phytoremediating species. Generally, petroleum pollution reduced plant performance, especially at early stages of plant growth. Petroleum had negative effects on the net accumulation of inorganic nitrogen from its organic forms (net nitrogen mineralization (NNM)) most likely by decreasing the inorganic nitrogen available to the plants in petroleum-polluted soils. However, abundant dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) was found in petroleum-polluted soil. In order to overcome initial deficiency of inorganic nitrogen, plants by dint of high colonization of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi might absorb some DON for their growth in petroleum-polluted soils. In addition, through using a real-time polymerase chain reaction method, we quantified hydrocarbon-degrading bacterial traits based on their catabolic genes (i.e. alkB (alkane monooxygenase), nah (naphthalene dioxygenase) and tol (xylene monooxygenase) genes). This enumeration of target genes suggests that different hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria experienced different dynamic changes during phytoremediation and a greater abundance of alkB was detected during vegetative growth stages. Because phytoremediation of different components of petroleum is performed by different hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria, plants' ability of phytoremediating different components might therefore vary during the plant life cycle. Phytoremediation might be most effective during the vegetative growth stages as greater abundances of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria containing alkB and tol genes were observed at these stages. The information provided by this study enhances our understanding of the effects of petroleum pollution on plant-microbe interactions and the roles of these interactions in the phytoremediation of petroleum-polluted soil.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17961
Number of pages8
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2011


  • real-time PCR
  • contaminated soil
  • hydrocarbon contamination
  • nitrogen mineralization
  • organic-matter
  • fertilizer
  • community
  • oil
  • immobilization
  • bioremediation


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding plant-microbe interactions for phytoremediation of petroleum-polluted soil'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this