Various heterocyclic sulfur compounds such as naphtho[2,1-b]thiophene (NTH) and benzo[b]thiophene (BTH) derivatives can be detected in diesel oil, in addition to dibenzothiophene (DBT) derivatives. Mycobacterium phlei WU-0103 was newly isolated as a bacterial strain capable of growing in a medium with NTH as the sulfur source at 50°C. M. phlei WU-0103 could degrade various heterocyclic sulfur compounds, not only NTH and its derivatives but also DBT, BTH, and their derivatives at 45°C. When M. phlei WU-0103 was cultivated with the heterocyclic sulfur compounds such as NTH, NTH 3,3-dioxide, DBT, BTH, and 4,6-dialkylDBTs as sulfur sources, monohydroxy compounds and sulfone compounds corresponding to starting heterocyclic sulfur compounds were detected by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis, suggesting the sulfur-specific desulfurization pathways for heterocyclic sulfur compounds. Moreover, total sulfur content in 12-fold-diluted crude straight-run light gas oil fraction was reduced from 1000 to 475 ppm S, with 52% reduction, by the biodesulfurization treatment at 45°C with growing cells of M. phlei WU-0103. Gas chromatography analysis with a flame photometric detector revealed that most of the resolvable peaks, such as those corresponding to alkylated derivatives of NTH, DBT, and BTH, disappeared after the biodesulfurization treatment. These results indicated that M. phlei WU-0103 may have a good potential as a biocatalyst for practical biodesulfurization of diesel oil.
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