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Molecular approaches and metagenomic investigations for optimizing clean-up of PAH contaminated sites

Activity Code: KBBE-2009-3-5-01
Coordinator: Prof. Dr Dietmar Pieper, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research


MAGICPAH aims to explore, understand and exploit the catalytic activities of microbial communities involved in the degradation of persistent PAHs. It will integrate (meta-) genomic studies with in-situ activity assessment based on stable isotope probing particularly in complex matrices of different terrestrial and marine environments. PAH degradation under various conditions of bioavailability will be assessed as to improve rational exploitation of the catalytic properties of bacteria for the treatment and prevention of PAH pollution. We will generate a knowledge base not only on the microbial catabolome for biodegradation of PAHs in various impacted environmental settings based on genome gazing, retrieval and characterization of specific enzymes but also on systems related bioavailability of contaminant mixtures.

MAGICPAH takes into account the tremendous undiscovered meta-genomic resources by the direct retrieval from genome/meta-genome libraries and consequent characterization of enzymes through activity screens. These screens will include a high-end functional small-molecule fluorescence screening platform and will allow us to directly access novel metabolic reactions followed by their rational exploitation for bio-catalysis and the re-construction of biodegradation networks. Results from (meta-) genomic approaches will be correlated with microbial in situ activity assessments, specifically dedicated to identifying key players and key reactions involved in anaerobic PAH metabolism.

Key processes for PAH metabolism particularly in marine and composting environments and the kinetics of aerobic degradation of PAH under different conditions of bioavailability will be assessed in model systems, the rational manipulation of which will allow us to deduce correlations between system performance and genomic blueprint. The results will be used to improve treatments of PAH-contaminated sites.

Project Details:

Start Date: 01.04.2010
End Date: 31.03.2014
EU Contribution: 3 Mio. Euro
Total Costs: 4.52 Mio. Euro
Funding Scheme: Small or medium-scale focused research project
Administrative Contact Person: Michael Strätz,
Scientific Coordinator:
Prof. Dr Dietmar Pieper,


  • Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Germany
  • Bangor University, United Kingdom
  • Syndial Spa - Attivita Diversificate, Italy
  • Corporacion Corpogen, Colombia
  • Universität Leipzig, Germany
  • Aarhus Universitet, Denmark
  • The Governing Council of the University of Toronto, Canada
  • Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique, France
  • Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Spain
  • Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung GmbH - UFZ, Germany
  • Earth Tech CZ SRO, Czech Republic
  • Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy
  • Danmarks Tekniske Universitet, Denmark