Biodegradation of sulfamethoxazole by a bacterial consortium of Achromobacter denitrificans PR1 and Leucobacter sp. GP
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In the last decade, biological degradation and mineralization of antibiotics have been increasingly reported feats of environmental bacteria. The most extensively described example is that of sulfonamides that can be degraded by several members of Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria. Previously, we reported sulfamethoxazole (SMX) degradation and partial mineralization by Achromobacter denitrificans strain PR1, isolated from activated sludge. However, further studies revealed an apparent instability of this metabolic trait in this strain. Here, we investigated this instability and describe the finding of a low-abundance and slow-growing actinobacterium, thriving only in co-culture with strain PR1. This organism, named GP, shared highest 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity (94.6–96.9%) with the type strains of validly described species of the genus Leucobacter. This microbial consortium was found to harbor a homolog to the sulfonamide monooxygenase gene (sadA) also found in other sulfonamide-degrading bacteria. This gene is overexpressed in the presence of the antibiotic, and evidence suggests that it codes for a group D flavin monooxygenase responsible for the ipso-hydroxylation of SMX. Additional side reactions were also detected comprising an NIH shift and a Baeyer–Villiger rearrangement, which indicate an inefficient biological transformation of these antibiotics in the environment. This work contributes to further our knowledge in the degradation of this ubiquitous micropollutant by environmental bacteria.