Occurrence State and Molecular Structure Analysis of Extracellular Proteins with Implications on the Dewaterability of Waste-Activated Sludge

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Journal Article
Environmental Science and Technology, 2017, 51 (16), pp. 9235 - 9243
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© 2017 American Chemical Society. The occurrence state and molecular structure of extracellular proteins were analyzed to reveal the influencing factors on the water-holding capacities of protein-like substances in waste-activated sludge (WAS). The gelation process of extracellular proteins verified that advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) for WAS dewaterability improvement eliminated the water affinity of extracellular proteins and prevented these macromolecules from forming stable colloidal aggregates. Isobaric tags for relative and absolute quantitation proteomics identified that most of the extracellular proteins were originally derived from the intracellular part and the proteins originally located in the extracellular part were mainly membrane-associated. The main mechanism of extracellular protein transformation during AOPs could be represented by the damage of the membrane or related external encapsulating structure and the release of intracellular substances. For the selected representative extracellular proteins, the strong correlation (R2 > 0.97, p < 0.03) between the surface hydrophilicity index and α-helix percentages in the secondary structure indicated that the water affinity relied more on the spatial distribution of hydrophilic functional groups rather than the content. Destructing the secondary structure represented by the α-helix and stretching the polypeptide aggregation in the water phase through disulfide bond removal might be the key to eliminating the inhibitory effects of extracellular proteins on the interstitial water removal from WAS.
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