Phosphorus is essential to life as a component of nucleic acids and cellular lipid membranes. Phosphorus is most commonly present in cells in the form of phosphate or organophosphate esters in the 5+ oxidation state. Phosphonates (compounds featuring C-P bonds) are also known to be synthesized by microorganisms (Seidel et al, 1988) and biodegradation of phosphonates (Kononova and Nesmeyanova, 2002) via C-P bond cleavage can be catalyzed by phosphonatase or C-P lyase (Wanner, 1994).

Several bacterial species can grow using phosphite (H2PO3-) as a sole phosphorus source by oxidizing phosphite to phosphate (HPO4-) (Casida, 1960), and some species can also oxidize hypophosphite (H2PO2-) to phosphite (White and Metcalf, 2002). An anaerobic bacterium has been isolated that can generate energy for growth by coupling phosphite oxidation to sulfate reduction (Schink and Friedrich, 2000). Reduction of phosphate to phosphine (H3P) by anaerobic bacteria has been reported (Devai et al, 1988).

For more information:

Search Medline for phosphorus metabolism AND bacteria

Environmental Literacy Council: Phosphorus Cycle

Chiou RJ, Ouyang CF, Lin KH, Chuang SH. The characteristics of phosphorus removal in an anaerobic/aerobic sequential biofilter reactor. Water Sci Technol. 2001;44:57-65.

Devai I, Felfoldy L, Wittner I, Plosz S. Detection of phosphine: new aspects of the phosphorus cycle in the hydrosphere. Nature 1988;333:343-45.

Park JK, Whang LM, Wang JC, Novotny G. A biological phosphorus removal potential test for wastewaters. Water Environ Res. 2001 May-Jun;73(3):374-82.


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