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Biodegradation study of methadone by adapted activated sludge: Elimination kinetics, transformation products and ecotoxicological evaluation

Kostanjevecki, Petra, Petric, Ines, Loncar, Jovica, Smital, Tvrtko, Ahel, Marijan, Terzic, Senka
Chemosphere 2019 v.214 pp. 719-728
activated sludge, algae, ammonia, biodegradation, biotransformation, chemical analysis, ecotoxicology, freshwater, genes, half life, humans, liquids, mass spectrometry, metabolites, methadone, microbial culture, nitrogen, organic carbon, pharmacokinetics, ribosomal RNA, toxicity
The biotransformation study of difficult-to-degrade opioid analgesic methadone (MTHD) was performed by activated sludge culture adapted to high concentration of methadone (10 mg/L). The study included determination of elimination kinetics of the parent compound, taxonomic characterization of microbial culture, identification of biotransformation products (TPs) and assessment of ecotoxicological effects of biotransformation processes. The chemical analyses were performed by ultra-performance liquid chromatography/quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometry, whereas the ecotoxicological assessment was made based on determinations of toxicity to freshwater algae. Changes of the adapted sludge culture during the experiment were followed using the 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Depending on the experimental conditions, the elimination efficiency of methadone (10 mg/L) varied from 9% to 93% with the corresponding half-lives from 11.4 days to 1.5 days. A significantly faster elimination (t1/2 from 1.5 days to 5.8 days) was achieved at cometabolic conditions, using glucose-containing media, as compared to the experiments with MTHD as a single organic carbon source (t1/2 = 11.4 days). Moreover, increased biotransformation rate following the additional supplementation of ammonia, revealed a possible importance of nitrogen availability for the transformation at cometabolic conditions. The elimination of parent compound was associated with the formation of 3 different TPs, two of which were identical to main human metabolites of MTHD, 2-Ethylidene-1,5-dimethyl-3,3-diphenylpyrrolidine (EDDP) and 2-ethyl-5-methyl-3,3-diphenyl-1-pyrroline (EMDP). EDDP represented over 90% of the total TP concentration at the end of experiment. The biodegradation of MTHD was associated with a pronounced drop in algal toxicity, confirming a rather positive ecotoxicological outcome of the achieved biotransformation processes.