Many free-living saprobic fungi are nature recruited organisms for the degradation of wastes, ranging from lignocellulose biomass to organic/inorganic chemicals, aided by their production of enzymes. In this study, fungal strains were isolated from contaminated crude-oil fields in Nigeria. The dominant fungi were selected from each site and identified as Aspergillus oryzae and Mucor irregularis based on morphological and molecular characterization, with site percentage incidences of 56.67% and 66.70%, respectively. Selected strains response/tolerance to complex hydrocarbon (used engine oil) was studied by growing them on Bushnell Haas (BH) mineral agar supplemented with the hydrocarbon at different concentrations, i.e., 5%, 10%, 15%, and 20%, with a control having dextrose. Hydrocarbon degradation potentials of these fungi were confirmed in BH broth culture filtrates pre-supplemented with 1% engine oil after 15 days of incubation using GC/MS. In addition, the presence of putative enzymes, laccase (Lac), manganese peroxidase (MnP), and lignin peroxidase (LiP) was confirmed in culture filtrates using appropriate substrates. The analyzed fungi grew in hydrocarbon supplemented medium with no other carbon source and exhibited 39.40% and 45.85% dose inhibition response (DIR) respectively at 20% hydrocarbon concentration. An enzyme activity test revealed that these two fungi produced more Lac than MnP and LiP. It was also observed through the GC/MS analyses that while A. oryzae acted on all hydrocarbon components in the used engine oil, M. irregularis only degraded the long-chain hydrocarbons and BTEX. This study confirms that A. oryzae and M. irregularis have the potential to be exploited in the bio-treatment and removal of hydrocarbons from polluted soils.
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