Project R-10015


Improvement of ambient air quality by exploiting plant–microbe partnerships to detoxify fossil fuel-related volatile organic compounds (Research)


Air pollution, containing fossil fuel-related volatile organic compounds (VOCs), constitutes a major problem in most urban areas. According to recent data, more people now die from exposure to airborne pollutants than from malaria and HIV infection together. Many years of research show that plant–microbe interactions can be exploited to significantly enhance phytoremediation of contaminated environments. Bacteria living on plant leaves, i.e. the phyllosphere, constitute promising candidates to detoxify fossil fuel-related VOCs and to promote plant growth, positively affecting phytoremediation through an increased (leaf) surface area. In this project, leaf-associated bacterial communities of Hedera helix (common ivy) are structurally and functionally characterized using a metagenomics and metatranscriptomics approach. Further, the capacity of culturable bacteria to detoxify fossil fuel-related VOCs and promote plant growth is evaluated. Entire genomes of selected bacteria are sequenced to investigate the genetic basis of underlying detoxification mechanisms. Finally, the effectiveness of most promising plant–microbe partnerships to detoxify selected VOCs is assessed during inoculation experiments. Hence, using cutting-edge culture-independent and culture-dependent techniques, an optimized plant–microbe system to improve ambient air quality is established.

Period of project

01 October 2019 - 30 September 2021