The internal loop photobiodegradation reactor (ILPBR) was evaluated for the degradation of the pharmaceutical sulfamethoxazole (SMX) using batch experiments following three protocols: photolysis alone (P), biodegradation alone (B), and intimately coupled photolysis and biodegradation (P&B). SMX was removed more rapidly by P&B than by either P or B alone, and the corresponding dissolved organic carbon (DOC) removals by P&B also were higher. The faster SMX removal probably was due to a synergy between photolysis and the rapid biodegradation of SMX by the biofilm. The greater DOC removal was brought about by the presence of biofilm bacteria able to biodegrade photolysis products. Ammonium N released during photolysis of SMX gave more evidence for the formation of intermediates and was enough in P&B experiments to support bioactivity when no other N was supplied. Clone libraries performed on the biofilms before and after the P&B experiments showed profound changes in the microbial community. Whereas Rhodopirellula baltica and Methylibium petroleiphilum PM1 dominated the biofilm after the B experiments, they were replaced by Micrococcus luteus, Delftia acidovorans, and Oligotropha carboxidovorans after the P&B experiments. The changes in microbial community structure mirrored the change in function in the P&B experiments: SMX biodegradation (presumably the roles of R. baltica and M. petroleiphilum) was out-competed by SMX photolysis, but biodegradation of photolysis products (most likely by M. luteus and D. acidovorans) became important. The higher removal rates of SMX and DOC, as well as the changes in microbial community structure, confirm the value of intimately coupling photolysis with biodegradation in the ILPBR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-535
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Biodegradation
  • Biofilm
  • Microbial community structure
  • Photolysis
  • Sulfamethoxazole

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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