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Concept: Biodegradability prediction


Cultures from the unicellular green alga Scenedesmus obliquus biodegrade the toxic p-cresol (4-methylphenol) and use it as alternative carbon/energy source. The biodegradation procedure of p-cresol seems to be a two-step process. HPLC analyses indicate that the split of the methyl group (first step) that is possibly converted to methanol (increased methanol concentration in the growth medium), leading, according to our previous work, to changes in the molecular structure and function of the photosynthetic apparatus and therefore to microalgal biomass increase. The second step is the fission of the intermediately produced phenol. A higher p-cresol concentration results in a higher p-cresol biodegradation rate and a lower total p-cresol biodegradability. The first biodegradation step seems to be the most decisive for the effectiveness of the process, because methanol offers energy for the further biodegradation reactions. The absence of LHCII from the Scenedesmus mutant wt-lhc stopped the methanol effect and significantly reduced the p-cresol biodegradation (only 9%). The present contribution deals with an energy distribution between microalgal growth and p-cresol biodegradation, activated by p-cresol concentration. The simultaneous biomass increase with the detoxification of a toxic phenolic compound (p-cresol) could be a significant biotechnological aspect for further applications.

Concepts: Biodegradability prediction, Bacteria, Biodegradation, Microbial biodegradation, Bioremediation, Phenols, Photosynthesis


The release of pharmaceuticals in the environment, as parent compounds, metabolites and transformation products, and the consequent risks posed to living organisms due to the unintended exposure of the latter to these chemicals are nowadays of increasing scientific concern. The development of advanced oxidation processes able to degrade these substances is in the core of the current research objectives, the main target being the removal of these compounds from wastewaters. Often the focus is on the removal of the parent compound only. However, these processes can form transformation products. Knowledge on the risk related to such transformation products is scarce. Among others, knowledge on their toxic effects and their biodegradability is of importance not only when they are present in the environment but also for the assessment of the advanced oxidation processes' efficiency applied for their degradation. Photolytic (UV irradiation) and photocatalytic treatment (UV irradiation in the presence of TiO(2)) of the fluoroquinolone ofloxacin were applied, and the biodegradability of the formed products was investigated using the Closed Bottle test (OECD 301 D). Various transformation products, formed both during the photo(cata)lytic treatment and the Closed Bottle test, were identified using chromatographic analysis with an ultra high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS) system. The transformation products formed during the phototreatments were found to be non-readily biodegradable as the biodegradation percentages were close to zero. The persistence of the various photo(cata)lytic transformation products during the Closed Bottle test may be attributed to the fluorine present in all the transformation products formed. The transformation products identified suggest that two transformation routes were present: decarboxylation and opening of the piperazinyl ring. Interestingly, it was observed that in the presence of a readily biodegradable carbon source (sodium acetate), the biodegradation percentage increased drastically for some of the photolytically treated samples. This was not the case for the photocatalytically treated samples, in which also mineralization of the parent compound was achieved faster. Further research is needed, however, in order to increase the understanding of the conditions that may lead to less potent and persistent substances during the application of such engineered or natural processes.

Concepts: Microbial biodegradation, Biodegradability prediction, Chromatography, Biodegradation, Bioremediation, Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry


The evolution of microstructure and mechanical properties of almost fully amorphous Mg(72) Zn(23) Ca(5) and crystalline Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) alloys during immersion in Hank’s balanced salt solution (HBSS), as well as their cytocompatibility, are investigated in order to assess the feasibility of both materials as biodegradable implants. Though the crystalline Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) sample shows lower wettability and more positive corrosion potential, this sample degrades much faster upon incubation in HBSS as a consequence of the formation of micro-galvanic couples between the nobler Pd-rich dendrites and the surrounding phases. After 22-h immersion, the concentration of Mg ions in the HBSS medium containing the Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) sample is six times larger than for Mg(72) Zn(23) Ca(5) . Due to the Zn enrichment and the incipient porosity, the mechanical properties of the Mg(72) Zn(23) Ca(5) sample improve within the first stages of biodegradation (i.e., hardness increases while the Young’s modulus decreases, thus rendering an enhanced wear resistance). Cytocompatibility studies reveal that neither Mg(72) Zn(23) Ca(5) nor Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) are cytotoxic, although preosteoblast cell adhesion is to some extent precluded, particularly onto the surface of Mg(70) Zn(23) Ca(5) Pd(2) , because of the relatively high hydrophobicity. Because of their outstanding properties and their time-evolution, the use of the Pd-free alloy in temporary implants such as screws, stents, and sutures is envisioned. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A, 2013.

Concepts: Bioremediation, Zinc, Microbial biodegradation, Biodegradability prediction, Young's modulus, Biodegradation, Solid, Materials science


The European REACH regulation requires information on ready biodegradation, which is a screening test to assess the biodegradability of chemicals. At the same time REACH encourages the use of alternatives to animal testing which includes predictions from QSAR models. The aim of this study was to build QSAR models to predict ready biodegradation of chemicals by using different modelling methods and types of molecular descriptors. Particular attention was given to data screening and validation procedures in order to build predictive models. Experimental values of 1055 chemicals were collected from the webpage of the National Institute of Technology and Evaluation of Japan (NITE): 837 and 218 molecules were used for calibration and testing purposes, respectively. In addition, models were further evaluated using an external validation set consisting of 670 molecules. Classification models were produced in order to discriminate biodegradable and non-biodegradable chemicals by means of different mathematical methods: k Nearest Neighbours, Partial Least Squares Discriminant Analysis and Support Vector Machines, as well as their consensus models. The proposed models and the derived consensus analysis demonstrated good classification performances with respect to already published QSAR models on biodegradation. Relationships between the molecular descriptors selected in each QSAR model and biodegradability were evaluated.

Concepts: Biodegradability prediction, Regression analysis, Chemistry, Molecule, Support vector machine, Futurology, Biodegradation, Prediction


Prediction of the biodegradability of organic pollutants is an ecologically desirable and economically feasible tool for estimating the environmental fate of chemicals. In this paper, linear and nonlinear relationships between biological oxygen demand (BOD) and molecular descriptors/fragments have been investigated for 1130 organic chemicals. Significant relationships have been observed between the simple molecular descriptors and %BOD for some homologous compounds, but not for the whole set of compounds. Electronic parameters, such as E(HOMO) and E(LUMO), are the dominant factors affecting the biodegradability for some homologous chemicals. However, other descriptors, such as molecular weight, acid dissociation constant and polarity still have a significant impact on the biodegradation. The best global model for %BOD prediction is that developed from a chain-based fragmentation scheme. At the same time, the theoretical relationship between %BOD and molecular descriptors/fragments has been investigated, based on a first-order kinetic process. The %BOD is nonlinearly, rather than linearly, related to the descriptors. The coefficients of determination can be significantly improved by using nonlinear models for the homologous compounds and the whole data set. After analysing 1130 ready and not ready biodegradable compounds using 23 simple descriptors and various fragmentation schemes, it was revealed that biodegradation could be well predicted from a chain-based fragmentation scheme, a decision tree and a %BOD model. The models were capable of separating NRB and RB with an overall accuracy of 87.2%, 83.0% and 82.5%, respectively. The best classification model developed was a chain-based model but it used 155 fragments. The simplest model was a decision tree which only used 10 structural fragments. The effect of structures on the biodegradation has been analysed and the biodegradation pathway and mechanisms have been discussed based on activating and inactivating fragments.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Microbial biodegradation, Biodegradability prediction, Chemistry, Biodegradation, Scientific method, Molecule, Oxygen


Microparticles made from naturally occurring materials or biodegradable plastics such as poly(3-hydroxy butyrate)-co-(3-hydroxy valerate), PHBV, are being evaluated as alternatives to microplastics in personal care product applications but limited data is available on their ultimate biodegradability (mineralization) in down the drain environmental compartments. An OECD 301B Ready Biodegradation Test was used to quantify ultimate biodegradability of microparticles made of PHBV foam, jojoba wax, beeswax, rice bran wax, stearyl stearate, blueberry seeds and walnut shells. PHBV polymer was ready biodegradable reaching 65.4 ± 4.1% evolved CO2 in 5 d and 90.5 ± 3.1% evolved CO2 in 80 d. PHBV foam microparticles (125-500 μm) were mineralized extensively with >66% CO2 evolution in 28 d and >82% CO2 evolution in 80 d. PHBV foam microparticles were mineralized at a similar rate and extent as microparticles made of jojoba wax, beeswax, rice bran wax, and stearyl stearate which reached 84.8  ± 4.8, 84.9  ± 2.2, 82.7  ± 4.7, and 86.4 ± 3.2% CO2 evolution respectively in 80 d. Blueberry seeds and walnut shells mineralized more slowly only reaching 39.3  ± 6.9 and 5.1 ± 2.8% CO2 evolution in 80 d respectively.

Concepts: Biodegradability prediction, Bioplastic, Wax, Biodegradable plastic, Waxes, Biodegradation


Selected sophorolipid quaternary ammonium salts (SQAS), being a new class of modified biosurfactants, were studied in this work for the first time with regard to their biodegradability and fate in the environment. It was made to find whether environment-friendly bioproducts like biosurfactants are still safe to the environment after their chemical modification. The susceptibility of these SQAS for biodegradation was estimated together with the evaluation of their influence on activated sludge microorganisms. Additionally, the mechanisms of removal of the SQAS from wastewater and from the aquatic environment, were analysed. The evaluated SQAS were potentially biodegradable, although none of them could be classified as readily biodegradable. The biodegradation degrees after 28 days ranged from 4 to 42%, dependent on the SQAS tested, i.e. below the required OECD 301D Closed Bottle Test level of 60%. Simultaneously, the analysis of the mass spectra revealed the presence of the breakdown products of each SQAS studied. Biodegradation was preceded by sorption of the SQAS on sludge particles, which occurred to be a main mechanism of the removal of these newly synthesized biosurfactants from wastewater. The mean degree of sorption calculated on the basis of SQAS determination was from 75 to 96%, dependent on the studied SQAS. The presence of SQAS in wastewater did not deteriorate the operation of the activated sludge system, although the products of the SQAS biodegradation remained in the liquid phase and might contribute to the increase of COD of the effluent to be introduced to the environment.

Concepts: Biodegradability prediction, Biodegradation, Salt, Water, Quaternary ammonium cation, Ammonium


Beyond mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs), mesoporous organosilica nanoparticles (MONs) have been becoming an even more attractive alternative to the traditional organic or inorganic nanomaterials in biomedical applications, especially for drug delivery, due to its high surface area, stable physicochemical properties, low toxicity, high biocompatibility, and particularly the devisable features decided by the incorporated organic fragments. However, it is still challenging to fabricate uniform ultrasmall MONs with tunable composition, morphology and fine biodegradability. Herein, we report, on the large-scale fabrication of monodispersed and molecularly organic-inorganic hybrid MONs with framework-incorporated physiologically active thioether bonds, controllable nanostructure, composition and morphology, which provides the material foundation for exploring the versatile biomedical applications of organosilica nanosystems. The hybrid MONs of less than 50 nm in particle size exhibit the unique reduction-responsive biodegradation behavior, and the biodegradation rate is significantly higher than that of traditional mesoporous silica nanoparticles with pure inorganic SiOSi framework. The reductive microenvironment-triggered biodegradation of MONs induces the concurrent reduction-responsive anticancer drug releasing from MONs, enabling tumor-specific drug delivery. Importantly, these biocompatible and biodegradable MONs exhibit significantly improved drug-delivery efficiency and enhanced tumor-suppressing effect for combating cancer. Based on the facile and large-scale fabrication of MONs with controllable key structure/composition/morphology parameters, unique tumor microenvironment-responsive biodegradation behavior and high performance for drug delivery, the MONs therefore show more promising potentials for clinical translation as compared to traditional MSNs.

Concepts: Nanomaterials, Bioremediation, Sol-gel, Microbial biodegradation, Nanotechnology, Biodegradability prediction, Biodegradation, Mesoporous silica


Biodegradable nanocomposites were prepared from polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and cellulose nanofiber (CNF) by using liquid nitrogen, freeze drying and hot press techniques. The effect of CNF content on the biodegradability of the films was investigated by visual observation, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), weight loss, CO2 evolution, differential scanning calorimetry, measuring the amount of mineralized carbon of the specimens buried in municipal solid waste. Ecotoxicity was evaluated by plants growth tests with cress and spinach. The results confirmed that the weight loss of nanocomposites was lower than that of neat PVA because of the zigzag pathways of microorganisms in the CNF presence. The SEM analysis showed extensive surface roughness and cracks for all samples, indicating the initiation of biodegradation. The CO2 evolution decreased with increasing CNF content from 0% to 10% and then, increased with further increase in the filler content (up to 30 wt%). The crystallinity of the PVA and its nanocomposites increased as a function of time because of the amorphous parts degradation. Preliminary results of the ecotoxicological test revealed that all the nanocomposites and neat PVA did not generate any negative effects on germination or development of the studied vegetal species.

Concepts: Biodegradability prediction, Polyvinyl acetate, Polyvinyl alcohol, Differential scanning calorimetry, Biodegradation, Bioremediation, Biodegradable waste, Scanning electron microscope


Electroactive scaffolds containing conductive polymers can promote tissue repair and regeneration. However, these polymers are non-degradable and cannot be removed from body. To overcome this limitation of conductive polymers, we developed a novel injectable electroactive hydrogel containing pyrrole oligomers which possessed the unique properties of being both electrically conductive and biodegradable. First, pyrrole oligomers were synthesized via chemical polymerization and were found to be amorphous with a non-globular morphology. Then, three different compositions of injectable chitosan/beta glycerophosphate hydrogels containing different concentrations of pyrrole oligomers were synthesized and characterized for chemical structure, morphology, conductivity, swelling ratio, In vitro biodegradation and gelation time. An increase in oligopyrrole content resulted in decreased pore size, and increased gelation time, swelling ratio, conductivity and degradation time. Among all the hydrogel compositions, the sample with pyrrole oligomer:chitosan ratio of 0.1 (w/w) showed the most prominent biodegradability, biocompatibility, electro-activity, swelling ratio and pore size values and was chosen as the optimal electroactive hydrogel composition in this work.

Concepts: Chemistry, Extracellular matrix, Monomer, Bioremediation, Microbial biodegradation, Electrical conductivity, Biodegradability prediction, Biodegradation