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Photosensitized Degradation of Amitriptyline and Its Active Metabolite Nortriptyline in Aqueous Fulvic Acid Solution

Chen, Yong, Liang, Jianfeng, Liu, Lu, Lu, Xiye, Deng, Jianwu, Pozdnyakov, Ivan P., Zuo, Yuegang
Journal of environmental quality 2017 v.46 no.5 pp. 1081-1087
antidepressants, demethylation, deprotonation, electron transfer, electrons, environmental fate, fulvic acids, hydroxylation, isomers, kinetics, lighting, metabolites, nitrogen, pH, photolysis
Amitriptyline is a frequently prescribed tricyclic antidepressant. Although amitriptyline and its active metabolite, nortriptyline, have been widely detected in natural waters, their environmental fate due to photodegradation is poorly understood. Here we describe a study conducted to investigate the photodegradation of amitriptyline and its active metabolite under simulated sunlight. Neither amitriptyline nor nortriptyline underwent direct photodegradation, but rapid photosensitized degradation did occur in fulvic acid (FA) solutions. The photodegradation of amitriptyline and nortriptyline followed pseudo-first-order kinetics with rate constants 0.24 and 0.16 h⁻¹, respectively, at pH 8.0 in air-saturated FA solutions. The photodegradation of the substrates increased markedly with pH. The deprotonation of amitriptyline and nortriptyline facilitated the availability of nonbonding electrons on nitrogen (N-electrons). The excited triplet state of FA (³FA*) was verified as the main reactive species responsible for the photosensitized degradation. An electron transfer mechanism for the interaction between substrates and ³FA* was proposed on the basis of a series of quenching experiments, kinetic model and photoproducts determination. Demethylation at the α-carbon of amine and hydroxylation were two primary photochemical processes initiated by the electron transfer reaction in the air-saturated FA solution; these were followed by generation of demethyl amine and mono-hydroxylation isomers. Our results suggest that indirect photodegradation is an important elimination process for amitriptyline and its active metabolite in natural waters.