Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are emerging environmental contaminants that can be transformed by anaerobic microorganisms in anoxic environments. The present study examined 2 consortia, enriched under methanogenic and sulfate-rich conditions, that demethylate the phenylmethyl ether anti-inflammatory drug naproxen to 6-O-desmethylnaproxen. Both enriched consortia were also able to demethylate a range of phenylmethyl ether compounds of plant-based origin or used as PPCPs. Results from 16S rRNA gene sequencing showed that the 2 communities were very different despite sharing the same PPCP metabolism. In most cases, the demethylated metabolite was not further degraded but rather accumulated in the culture medium. For the expectorant guaifenesin, this resulted in a novel microbial metabolite. Furthermore, to our knowledge, this is the first report of methylparaben metabolism under methanogenic conditions. The wide range of phenylmethyl ether substrates that underwent O-demethylation in both methanogenic and sulfate-rich conditions suggests that there are potentially bioactive transformation products in the environment that have not yet been quantified. Environ Toxicol Chem 2019;38:1585–1593.
- Anaerobic biodegradation
- Emerging pollutants
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis