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Ion trapping of amines in protozoa: a novel removal mechanism for micropollutants in activated sludge


Gulde, Rebekka; Anliker, Sabine; Kohler, Hans-Peter E; Fenner, Kathrin (2018). Ion trapping of amines in protozoa: a novel removal mechanism for micropollutants in activated sludge. Environmental Science & Technology, 52(1):52-60.

Abstract

To optimize removal of organic micropollutants from the water cycle, understanding the processes during activated sludge treatment is essential. In this study, we hypothesize that aliphatic amines, which are highly abundant among organic micropollutants, are partly removed from the water phase in activated sludge through ion trapping in protozoa. In ion trapping, which has been extensively investigated in medical research, the neutral species of amine-containing compounds diffuse through the cell membrane and further into acidic vesicles present in eukaryotic cells such as protozoa. There they become trapped because diffusion of the positively charged species formed in the acidic vesicles is strongly hindered. We tested our hypothesis with two experiments. First, we studied the distribution of the fluorescent amine acridine orange in activated sludge by confocal fluorescence imaging. We observed intense fluorescence in distinct compartments of the protozoa, but not in the bacterial biomass. Second, we investigated the distribution of 12 amine-containing and eight control micropollutants in both regular activated sludge and sludge where the protozoa had been inactivated. In contrast to most control compounds, the amine-containing micropollutants displayed a distinctly different behavior in the noninhibited sludge compared to the inhibited one: (i) more removal from the liquid phase; (ii) deviation from first-order kinetics for the removal from the liquid phase; and (iii) higher amounts in the solid phase. These results provide strong evidence that ion trapping in protozoa occurs and that it is an important removal mechanism for amine-containing micropollutants in batch experiments with activated sludge that has so far gone unnoticed. We expect that our findings will trigger further investigations on the importance of this process in full-scale wastewater treatment systems, including its relevance for accumulation of ammonium.

Abstract

To optimize removal of organic micropollutants from the water cycle, understanding the processes during activated sludge treatment is essential. In this study, we hypothesize that aliphatic amines, which are highly abundant among organic micropollutants, are partly removed from the water phase in activated sludge through ion trapping in protozoa. In ion trapping, which has been extensively investigated in medical research, the neutral species of amine-containing compounds diffuse through the cell membrane and further into acidic vesicles present in eukaryotic cells such as protozoa. There they become trapped because diffusion of the positively charged species formed in the acidic vesicles is strongly hindered. We tested our hypothesis with two experiments. First, we studied the distribution of the fluorescent amine acridine orange in activated sludge by confocal fluorescence imaging. We observed intense fluorescence in distinct compartments of the protozoa, but not in the bacterial biomass. Second, we investigated the distribution of 12 amine-containing and eight control micropollutants in both regular activated sludge and sludge where the protozoa had been inactivated. In contrast to most control compounds, the amine-containing micropollutants displayed a distinctly different behavior in the noninhibited sludge compared to the inhibited one: (i) more removal from the liquid phase; (ii) deviation from first-order kinetics for the removal from the liquid phase; and (iii) higher amounts in the solid phase. These results provide strong evidence that ion trapping in protozoa occurs and that it is an important removal mechanism for amine-containing micropollutants in batch experiments with activated sludge that has so far gone unnoticed. We expect that our findings will trigger further investigations on the importance of this process in full-scale wastewater treatment systems, including its relevance for accumulation of ammonium.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry
Dewey Decimal Classification:540 Chemistry
Language:English
Date:2018
Deposited On:28 Dec 2017 16:17
Last Modified:20 Feb 2018 08:58
Publisher:American Chemical Society (ACS)
ISSN:0013-936X
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.7b03556
PubMed ID:29182849

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