Microbial Community Degradation of Widely Used Quaternary Ammonium Disinfectants

Oh, Seungdae
Kurt, Zöhre
Tsementzi, Despina
Weigand, Michael R.
Kim, Minjae
Hatt, Janet K.
Tandukar, Madan
Pavlostathis, Spyros G.
Spain, Jim C.
Konstantinidis, Konstantinos T.
Benzalkonium chlorides (BACs) are disinfectants widely used in a variety of clinical and environmental settings to prevent microbial infections, and they are frequently detected in nontarget environments, such as aquatic and engineered biological systems, even at toxic levels. Therefore, microbial degradation of BACs has important ramifications for alleviating disinfectant toxicity in nontarget environments as well as compromising disinfectant efficacy in target environments. However, how natural microbial communities respond to BAC exposure and what genes underlie BAC biodegradation remain elusive. Our previous metagenomic analysis of a river sediment microbial community revealed that BAC exposure selected for a low-diversity community, dominated by several members of the Pseudomonas genus that quickly degraded BACs. To elucidate the genetic determinants of BAC degradation, we conducted time-series metatranscriptomic analysis of this microbial community during a complete feeding cycle with BACs as the sole carbon and energy source under aerobic conditions. Metatranscriptomic profiles revealed a candidate gene for BAC dealkylation, the first step in BAC biodegradation that results in a product 500 times less toxic. Subsequent biochemical assays and isolate characterization verified that the putative amine oxidase gene product was functionally capable of initiating BAC degradation. Our analysis also revealed cooperative interactions among community members to alleviate BAC toxicity, such as the further degradation of BAC dealkylation by-products by organisms not encoding amine oxidase. Collectively, our results advance the understanding of BAC aerobic biodegradation and provide genetic biomarkers to assess the critical first step of this process in nontarget environments.


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Many plants produce allelopathic chemicals, such as stilbenes, to inhibit pathogenic fungi. The degradation of allelopathic compounds by bacteria associated with the plants would limit their effectiveness, but little is known about the extent of biodegradation or the bacteria involved. Screening of tissues and rhizosphere of peanut (Arachis hypogaea) plants revealed substantial enrichment of bacteria able to grow on resveratrol and pterostilbene, the most common stilbenes produced by the plants. Investigati...
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High concentration of heavy metals is toxic for most microorganisms and cause strict damage in wastewater treatment operations and often a physico-chemical pretreatment prior to biological treatment is considered necessary. However, in this study it has been shown that biological systems can adapt to Ni (II) and Cr (VI) when their concentration is below 10 and 20 mg/L, respectively. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of Ni (II) and Cr (VI) on the lab-scale rotating biological contactor process...
Molecular evaluation and antimicrobial susceptibility testing of Escherichia coli isolates from food products in Turkey
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Some strains of Escherichia coli can be important food borne pathogens. Characterization and antimicrobial resistance testing of 28 E. coli isolates from random food samples obtained in Van, Turkey were performed. Primers for 6 indicator genes (fliC, stx1, stx2, eae, hlyA, and rfbE) for shiga toxin-producing E. coli and 5 indicator genes for each pathogroup (bfpA, aggR, ipaH, daaD, st, and lt) were used. E. coli isolates were also typed using pulsed field gel electrophoresis with the XbaI restriction enzyme...
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Strain typing of bacterial isolates is increasingly used to identify sources of infection or product contamination and to elucidate routes of transmission of pathogens or spoilage organisms. Usually, the number of bacterial isolates belonging to the same species that is analyzed per sample is determined by convention, convenience, laboratory capacity, or financial resources. Statistical considerations and knowledge of the heterogeneity of bacterial populations in various sources can be used to determine the...
Citation Formats
S. Oh et al., “Microbial Community Degradation of Widely Used Quaternary Ammonium Disinfectants,” APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY, pp. 5892–5900, 2014, Accessed: 00, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://hdl.handle.net/11511/38359.