Effect of rhamnolipid (biosurfactant) structure on solubilization and biodegradation of n-alkanes

Y. Zhang, R. M. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

182 Scopus citations


A study to quantify the effect of rhamnolipid biosurfactant structure on the degradation of alkanes by a variety of Pseudomonas isolates was conducted. Two dirhamnolipids were studied, a methyl ester form (dR-Me) and an acid form (dR-A). These rhamnolipids have different properties with respect to interfacial tension, solubility, and charge. For example, the interfacial tension between hexadecane and water was decreased to <0.1 dyne/cm by the dR-Me but was only decreased to 5 dyne/cm by the dR-A. Solubilization and biodegradation of two alkanes in different physical states, liquid and solid, were determined at dirhamnolipid concentrations ranging from 0.01 to 0.1 mM (7 to 70 mg/liter). The dR-Me markedly enhanced hexadecane (liquid) and octadecane (solid) degradation by seven different Pseudomonas strains. For an eighth strain tested, which exhibited extremely high cell surface hydrophobicity, hexadecane degradation was enhanced but octadecane degradation was inhibited. The dR-A also enhanced hexadecane degradation by all degraders but did so more modestly than the dR-Me. For octadecane, the dR-A only enhanced degradation by strains with low cell surface hydrophobicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2247-2251
Number of pages5
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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