Microbial Ecology

, Volume 76, Issue 2, pp 362–371 | Cite as

Naproxen Is Transformed Via Acetogenesis and Syntrophic Acetate Oxidation by a Methanogenic Wastewater Consortium

  • Sarah J. Wolfson
  • Abigail W. Porter
  • Julia K. Campbell
  • Lily Y. Young
Environmental Microbiology


Over-the-counter pharmaceutical compounds can serve as microbial substrates in wastewater treatment processes as well as in the environment. The metabolic pathways and intermediates produced during their degradation, however, are poorly understood. In this study, we investigate an anaerobic wastewater community that metabolizes naproxen via demethylation. Enriched cultures, established from anaerobic digester inocula receiving naproxen as the sole carbon source, transformed naproxen to 6-O-desmethylnaproxen (DMN) within 22 days. Continual enrichment and culture transfer resulted in consistent demethylation of naproxen with no loss of DMN observed. Methane was generated at 0.83 mmol per 1 mmol transformed naproxen. In addition to naproxen, the consortium readily demethylated syringic acid and vanillic acid. DNA analysis revealed a community of acetogenic bacteria and syntrophic acetate oxidizing archaea. Combined with the biotransformation data, this suggests the enriched consortium performs aromatic O-demethylation through a syntrophic relationship between specific acetogens, acetate oxidizers, and methanogens. The proposed model of carbon transfer through the anaerobic food web highlights the significance of linked community interactions in the anaerobic transformation of aromatic O-methyl compounds such as naproxen.


Naproxen Anaerobic Microbial transformation Demethylation Wastewater Pharmaceutical 



The authors gratefully acknowledge Tom Villani and the labs of Dr. James Simon and Dr. Alan Goldman for the analysis support. The nucleotide sequence data reported are available in the NCBI Sequence Read Archive under the BioSample accession numbers SAMN07237492 and SAMN07237493.

Funding Information

This project was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch Multistate project 1007899 through the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Hatch Multistate NJ07212. Sarah Wolfson was supported by a US National Science Foundation Fuels IGERT from Rutgers University (NSF DGE 0903675).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

248_2017_1136_MOESM1_ESM.docx (356 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 355kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah J. Wolfson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Abigail W. Porter
    • 1
  • Julia K. Campbell
    • 1
    • 3
  • Lily Y. Young
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.Department of Systems and Computational BiologyAlbert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA
  3. 3.Township of Middletown Sewerage AuthorityBelfordUSA

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