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Functionalization of seawater reverse osmosis membrane with quorum sensing inhibitor to regulate microbial community and mitigate membrane biofouling.

Water Research 2024 Februrary 23
Membrane biofouling is a challenge to be solved for the stable operation of the seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) membrane. This study explored the regulation mechanism of quorum sensing (QS) inhibition on microbial community composition and population-level behaviors in seawater desalination membrane biofouling. A novel antibiofouling SWRO membrane (MA_m) by incorporating one of quorum sensing inhibitors (QSIs), methyl anthranilate (MA) was prepared. It exhibited enhanced anti-biofouling performance than the exogenous addition of QSIs, showing long-term stability and alleviating 22 % decrease in membrane flux compared with the virgin membrane. The results observed that dominant bacteria Epsilon- and Gamma-proteobacteria (Shewanella, Olleya, Colwellia, and Arcobacter), which are significantly related to (P ≤ 0.01) the metabolic products (i.e., polysaccharides, proteins and eDNA), are reduced by over 80 % on the MA_m membrane. Additionally, the introduction of MA has a more significant impact on the QS signal-sensing pathway through binding to the active site of the transmembrane sensor receptor. It effectively reduces the abundance of genes encoding QS and extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) (exopolysaccharides (i.e., galE and nagB) and amino acids (i.e., ilvE, metH, phhA, and serB)) by up to 50 % and 30 %, respectively, resulting in a reduction of EPS by more than 50 %, thereby limiting the biofilm formation on the QSI-modified membrane. This study provides novel insights into the potential of QSIs to control consortial biofilm formation in practical SWRO applications.

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