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Aromatic hydrocarbons are widely used by the chemical industry as organic solvents and starting materials for the production of added value chemicals. The annual production of monocyclic aromatic compounds is estimated at about 105 metric tons per year. Because of the massive use of these compounds, waste dump sites containing large amounts of these solvents have appeared. In addition, accidents have produced localized "solvent deserts", which are invulnerable to colonization by microorganisms.
Many aerobic and anaerobic microorganisms are able to use aromatic hydrocarbons as the sole source of carbon when these compounds are present at sublethal concentrations. Pseudomonas putida strains S12 and DOT-T1, which were isolated by the participants groups, are able to tolerate high concentrations of organic solvents, and are able to grow in soil and aquatic environments in the presence of supersaturating concentrations of solvents.P. putida DOT-T1 and S12 tolerated supersaturating concentrations of heptane, propylben-zene styrene, octanol, and toluene in water medium. The tolerance to organic solvents of P. putida DOT-T1 strain was also assayed in soil. The addition to soil of 10% (vol/wt) heptane or 10% (vol/wt) propylbenzene or 10% (vol/wt) toluene did not affect the survival of P. putida DOT-T1 strain. The strain mineralized these solvents to CO2 and H2O.
The basic mechanisms underlying solvent tolerance in Pseudomonas putida DOT-T1E and S12 are efflux pumps that remove the solvent from bacterial cell membranes.

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