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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2004 Feb;63(5):602-8. Epub 2003 Jun 12.

Changes in structure, activity and metabolism of aerobic granules as a microbial response to high phenol loading.

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Environmental Engineering Research Centre, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, 50 Nanyang Avenue, 639798 Singapore.


Four column-type sequential aerobic sludge blanket reactors were fed with phenol as the sole carbon and energy source and operated at loading rates of 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 and 2.5 kg phenol m(-3) day(-1). The results indicated that phenol loading exerted a profound influence on the structure, activity and metabolism of the aerobic granules. Compact granules with good settling ability were maintained at loadings up to 2.0 kg phenol m(-3) day(-1), and structurally weakened granules with enhanced production of extracellular polymers and proteins and significantly lower hydrophobicities were observed at the highest loading of 2.5 kg phenol m(-3) day(-1). Specific oxygen uptake rate, catechol 2,3-dioxygenase (C23O) and catechol 1,2-dioxygenase (C12O) activities peaked at a loading of 2.0 kg phenol m(-3) day(-1), and declined thereafter. Granules degraded phenol completely in all four reactors, mainly through the meta cleavage pathway as C23O activities were significantly higher than C12O activities. At the highest loading applied, the anabolism and catabolism of microorganisms were regulated such that phenol degradation proceeded exclusively via the meta pathway, apparently to produce more energy for overstimulation of protein production against phenol toxicity. This work contributes to a better understanding of the ability of aerobic granules to handle high-strength industrial wastewaters containing chemicals that are normally inhibitory to microbial growth.

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