Factors Affecting Biodefluorination of Fluorotelomer Alcohols (FTOHs): Degradative Microorganisms, Transformation Metabolites and Pathways, and Effects of Co-substrates



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Fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs, F(CF2)nCH2CH2OH) are emerging contaminants in the environment. Biodegradation of 6:2 and 8:2 FTOHs has been intensively studied using soils and activated sludge. However, little is known about the bacteria responsible for biotransformation of FTOHs. This study deciphered factors affecting biodefluorination of FTOHs and their metabolites, and developed three effective FTOH-degrading consortia.

Two alkane-degrading Pseudomonas strains (P. oleovorans and P. butanovora) can defluorinate 4:2, 6:2 and 8:2 FTOHs, with a higher degree of defluorination for 4:2 FTOH. According to the identified metabolites, P. oleovorans transformed FTOHs via two pathways I and II. Pathway I led to formation of x:2 ketone (x = n-1), x:2 sFTOH and perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs). Pathway II resulted in the formation of x:3 polyfluorinated acid and relatively minor shorter-chain PFCAs. Conversely, P. butanovora transformed FTOHs by pathway I only.

Mycobacterium vaccae JOB5 (a C1-C22alkane-degrading bacterium) and P. fluorescens DSM 8341 (a fluoroacetate-degrading bacterium) can transform 6:2 FTOH via both pathways I and II with the formation of odd-numbered short-chain PFCAs. In the presence of dicyclopropylketone or formate, P. oleovorans transformed 6:2 FTOH six times faster and produced odd-numbered PFCAs. P. butanovora, utilized both pathways I and II in the presence of lactate, and it also produced odd-numbered PFCAs. Unlike P. oleovorans, P. fluorescens DSM 8341 could slightly convert 5:3 polyfluorinated acid (a key metabolite during 6:2 FTOH degradation, [F(CF2)5CH2CH2COOH]) to 4:3 acid and PFPeA via one-carbon removal pathways.

Three FTOH-degrading consortia transformed FTOHs, with enhanced removal of FTOHs in the presence of n-octane. A higher copy number of alkB gene was found to correspond to better removal of FTOHs, suggesting that alkane-degrading bacteria might be the key degraders in the enrichments. The three enrichment cultures showed a similar microbial community structure.

This is the first study reporting that pure strains of alkane- and fluoroacetate-degrading bacteria can bio-transform FTOHs via different or preferred transformation pathways to remove multiple ?CF2? groups from FTOHs to form shorter-chain PFCAs, and to other perfluorinated acids. The results of this study also suggest that enhanced FTOH biodegradation is possible through co-substrate addition and/or using enrichment cultures.