Hunt for microbial degradation of fluorinated pollutants (PFAS)

PFAS (fluorinated chemicals) are recently acknowledged as an extremely urgent environmental problem. We are studying their microbial degradation to support the development of remediation technologies. The research is embedded in a programme that investigates microbial dehalogenation in a broad evolutionary context.


PFAS are being used as anti-stick agent (Teflon), in water repelling fabrics, waxes, Teflon spray, and in fire-fighting foams. This has led to serious world-wide environmental pollution.

Techniques and set-up

The experimental set-ups include culturing in bottles, bioreactors, columns with directed flow, and, when possible, experiments at field sites. Mixtures of chlorinated solvents can also be the research topic. The chemicals of concern are measured using GC, GC-MS, HPLC, and/or IC, together with the fate, distribution and activity of the relevant microorganisms.

The phylogenetic diversity of microbial communities are determined using MiSeq analysis of 16/16S rRNA- and catabolic-genes and in some cases PCR-amplification, cloning and sequence analysis. Quantitative PCR-based assays are used to assess the abundance and expression of involved microbial guilds and their catabolic genes. The presence and expression of specific microbial groups or genes are correlated with the physico-chemical conditions in the subsurface. Metagenomic and (meta)proteomic techniques are included when needed.


If this project sparks your interest, contact Tom Bosma or Hauke Smidt.