Setting new standards

Multiphasic analysis of microplastic mineralization by fungi

authored by
Stephan Rohrbach, Gerasimos Gkoutselis, Anika Mauel, Nihal Telli, Jürgen Senker, Adrian Ho Kah Wye, Gerhard Rambold, Marcus Andreas Horn

Plastic materials provide numerous benefits. However, properties such as durability and resistance to degradation that make plastic attractive for variable applications likewise foster accumulation in the environment. Fragmentation of plastics leads to the formation of potentially hazardous microplastic, of which a considerable amount derives from polystyrene. Here, we investigated the biodegradation of polystyrene by the tropical sooty mold fungus Capnodium coffeae in different experimental setups. Growth of C. coffeae was stimulated significantly when cultured in presence of plastic polymers rather than in its absence. Stable isotope tracing using

13C-enriched polystyrene particles combined with cavity ring-down spectroscopy showed that the fungus mineralized polystyrene traces. However, phospholipid fatty acid stable isotope probing indicated only marginal assimilation of polystyrene-

13C by C. coffeae in liquid cultures. NMR spectroscopic analysis of residual styrene contents prior to and after incubation revealed negligible changes in concentration. Thus, this study suggests a plastiphilic life style of C. coffeae despite minor usage of plastic as a carbon source and the general capability of sooty mold fungi to stimulate polystyrene mineralization, and proposes new standards to identify and unambiguously demonstrate plastic degrading capabilities of microbes.

Institute of Microbiology
External Organisation(s)
University of Bayreuth
Publication date
Publication status
Peer reviewed
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health, Pollution, Chemistry(all), Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis, Environmental Engineering, Environmental Chemistry
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
Electronic version(s) (Access: Open)