Coupling pathway prediction and fluorescence spectroscopy to assess the impact of auxiliary substrates on micropollutant biodegradation

Anna-Ricarda Schittich*, Kathrin Fenner, Colin A. Stedmon, Jianxin Xu, Ursula S. McKnight, Barth F. Smets*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Some bacteria can degrade organic micropollutants (OMPs) as primary carbon sources. Due to typically low OMP concentrations, these bacteria may benefit from supplemental assimilation of natural substrates present in the pool of dissolved organic matter (DOM). The biodegradability of such auxiliary substrates and the impacts on OMP removal are tightly linked to biotransformation pathways. Here, we aimed to elucidate the biodegradability and effect of different DOM constituents for the carbofuran degrader Novosphingobium sp. KN65.2, using a novel approach that combines pathway prediction, laboratory experiments, and fluorescence spectroscopy. Pathway prediction suggested that ring hydroxylation reactions catalysed by Rieske-type dioxygenases and flavin-dependent monooxygenases determine the transformability of the 11 aromatic compounds used as model DOM constituents. Our approach further identified two groups with distinct transformation mechanisms amongst the four growth-supporting compounds selected for mixed substrate biodegradation experiments with the pesticide carbofuran (Group 1: 4-hydroxybenzoic acid, 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde; Group 2: p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid). Carbofuran biodegradation kinetics were stable in the presence of both Group 1 and Group 2 auxiliary substrates. However, Group 2 substrates would be preferable for bioremediation processes, as they showed constant biodegradation kinetics under different experimental conditions (pre-growing KN65.2 on carbofuran vs. DOM constituent). Furthermore, Group 2 substrates were utilisable by KN65.2 in the presence of a competitor (Pseudomonas fluorescens sp. P17). Our study thus presents a simple and cost-efficient approach that reveals mechanistic insights into OMP-DOM biodegradation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16560
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number2
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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