Cometabolic biodegradation of cephalexin by enriched nitrifying sludge: Process characteristics, gene expression and product biotoxicity

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Science of the Total Environment, 2019, 672 pp. 275 - 282
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
© 2019 Elsevier B.V. The nitrifying systems have been reported to be able to biodegrade micropollutants, yet it is still unclear about the cometabolism of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) towards micropollutants, in particular their enzyme and transcriptional responses under exposure of micropollutants. This study investigated cometabolic biodegradation of a selected antibiotic, cephalexin (CFX), by an enriched nitrifying culture through a series of batch experiments, together with the assessments of enzymatic activity, key gene expression, and biotoxicity of the degradation products. More than 99% CFX with an initial concentration of 50 μg/L could be removed with the presence of ammonium, while <44% of CFX removal was observed in the absence of ammonium, suggesting the cometabolic degradation of CFX by ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB). After the addition of 50 μg/L CFX, the ammonia oxidizing rate (AOR) decreased from 36.6 to 11.0 mg N/(L·h·g VSS), followed by a slight recovery when CFX concentration decreased to below 8 μg/L. Ammonia monooxygenase (AMO) activity showed a similar trend with that of AOR. The quantitative reverse transcription PCR assay indicated that the expression level of amoA gene was significantly upregulated (up to 3-fold, p < 0.05) due to the addition of CFX, while decreased to the normal level once CFX was degraded, suggesting a mechanism of AOB to neutralize the toxicity of CFX by metabolizing ammonia more effectively. Meanwhile, the biotoxicity test showed the degradation products of CFX did not exhibit any antibacterial impacts in terms of cell viability, compared to the parent compounds. Our finding shed a light on AMO-mediated cometabolic biodegradation of antibiotics in nitrifying cultures.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: