Depolymerisation and biodegradation of a synthetic tanning agent by activated sludges, the bacteria Arthrobacter globiformis and Comamonas testosteroni, and the fungus Cunninghamella polymorpha

Zhi Song, Richard G Burns
Biodegradation 2005, 16 (4): 305-18
Degradation of a synthetic tanning agent CNSF (a condensation product of 2-naphthalenesulfonic acid (2-NSA) and formaldehyde) by four activated sludges, two previously characterised bacterial strains, Arthrobacter sp. 2AC and Comamonas sp. 4BC, and the fungus Cunninghamella polymorpha, was studied in batch culture at 25 degrees C by determining the changes in the concentrations of CNSF and its component monomers and oligomers (n2-n11). The loss of individual oligomers was correlated with the length of the NSA-CH2 chain. Approximately 25% of the total CNSF was degraded (i.e. mineralised) by the microbes contained in the four activated sludges and by the two bacterial isolates but with different lag phases and at different overall rates. The decline in CNSF concentration was due almost entirely to the biodegradation of the monomers (34.3% of CNSF) and, in particular, 2-NSA (27% of CNSF). There was no change in the n2-n11 components. The growth of C. polymorpha, on the other hand, arose from extracellular depolymerisation of CNSF oligomers and the biodegradation of the lower molecular mass products. Between 38% and 42% of total CNSF was degraded by C. polymorpha at 25 degrees C. The order of oligomer degradation was inversely related to degree of polymerisation. Eighty percent and 90% of the n4 and n5 and 100% oligomers n6-n11 were degraded after 120 h. At a higher temperature (37 degrees C) oligomers n4-n11 were degraded completely after 120 h. A combination of biodegradation (75%) and sorption to fungal biomass (25%) accounted for the measured loss of all oligomers from the solution phase. The CNSF degradation rates and the volume of fungal biomass produced (and therefore the extent of biosorption) were dependent on the presence of a second carbon source (both optimum at glucose 5 g/l). This is the first report that identifies and distinguishes between depolymerisation, sorption and biodegradation processes in the removal of CNSF and its component oligomers. The use of combinations of the depolymerising fungus C. polymorpha, and the monomer-degrading bacteria, Arthrobacter sp. 2AC and Comamonas sp. 4BC, have potential for wastewater treatment.

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