Bioremediation of lignin derivatives and phenolics in wastewater with lignin modifying enzymes: Status, opportunities and challenges

Anil Kumar Singh, Muhammad Bilal*, Hafiz M.N. Iqbal, Anne S. Meyer*, Abhay Raj*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Lignin modifying enzymes from fungi and bacteria are potential biocatalysts for sustainable mitigation of different potentially toxic pollutants in wastewater. Notably, the paper and pulp industry generates enormous amounts of wastewater containing high amounts of complex lignin-derived chlorinated phenolics and sulfonated pollutants. The presence of these compounds in wastewater is a critical issue from environmental and toxicological perspectives. Some chloro-phenols are harmful to the environment and human health, as they exert carcinogenic, mutagenic, cytotoxic, and endocrine-disrupting effects. In order to address these most urgent concerns, the use of oxidative lignin modifying enzymes for bioremediation has come into focus. These enzymes catalyze modification of phenolic and non-phenolic lignin-derived substances, and include laccase and a range of peroxidases, specifically lignin peroxidase (LiP), manganese peroxidase (MnP), versatile peroxidase (VP), and dye-decolorizing peroxidase (DyP). In this review, we explore the key pollutant-generating steps in paper and pulp processing, summarize the most recently reported toxicological effects of industrial lignin-derived phenolic compounds, especially chlorinated phenolic pollutants, and outline bioremediation approaches for pollutant mitigation in wastewater from this industry, emphasizing the oxidative catalytic potential of oxidative lignin modifying enzymes in this regard. We highlight other emerging biotechnical approaches, including phytobioremediation, bioaugmentation, Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)-based technology, protein engineering, and degradation pathways prediction, that are currently gathering momentum for the mitigation of wastewater pollutants. Finally, we address current research needs and options for maximizing sustainable biobased and biocatalytic degradation of toxic industrial wastewater pollutants.
Original languageEnglish
Article number145988
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Environmental pollutants
  • Catalytic elimination
  • Lignin-modifying enzymes
  • Lignin
  • Industrial processes
  • Toxicity

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