Bacterial transformation of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances: a review for the field of bioremediation


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have received growing attention as more research on their potential risk and widespread extent of contamination has become available. Remediation schemes are currently being developed to help mitigate exposure to PFAS, especially in aquifers underlying sites where extensive application of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) for fire supression and/or fire training has resulted in widepread PFAS contamination. To-date, microbial remediation (bioremediation) has not been considered for PFAS treatment due to the recalcitrant nature of these compounds, and the lack of identified organisms that can completely degrade PFAS to non-toxic by-products. However, based on recent literature, the role of microorganisms may be important to our understanding of processes occurring at contaminated sites where transformation of PFAS precursors to terminal end-products has been observed. This paper reviews the current state of knowledge on the biotransformation of PFAS by microorganisms and includes topics of particular interest to bioremediation schemes. First, we review studies linking the exposure of PFAS to microbial toxicity at the cellular level and then expand the viewpoint to observed changes at the microbial community level. Second, we review the different classes of PFAS observed to biotransform and provide and overview of reactions that are likely to occur under different environmental conditions. Third we evaluate the role of co-metabolism and specific enzyme classes in the observed biotransformation of larger PFAS to terminal perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs). Lastly, we identify knowledge gaps in the understanding of PFAS biotransformation and provide suggestions for future research that may result in new strategies that include bioremediation as a solution for PFAS in environmental matrices.


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LaFond, J.A., Hatzinger, P.B., Guelfo, J.L., Millerick, K., & Jackson, W.A.. 2023. Bacterial transformation of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances: a review for the field of bioremediation. Environmental Science: Advances.