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Systematic Approach to In-Depth Understanding of Photoelectrocatalytic Bacterial Inactivation Mechanisms by Tracking the Decomposed Building Blocks

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journal contribution
posted on 19.08.2014, 00:00 by Hongwei Sun, Guiying Li, Xin Nie, Huixian Shi, Po-Keung Wong, Huijun Zhao, Taicheng An
A systematic approach was developed to understand, in-depth, the mechanisms involved during the inactivation of bacterial cells using photoelectrocatalytic (PEC) processes with Escherichia coli K-12 as the model microorganism. The bacterial cells were found to be inactivated and decomposed primarily due to attack from photogenerated H2O2. Extracellular reactive oxygen species (ROSs), such as H2O2, may penetrate into the bacterial cell and cause dramatically elevated intracellular ROSs levels, which would overwhelm the antioxidative capacity of bacterial protective enzymes such as superoxide dismutase and catalase. The activities of these two enzymes were found to decrease due to the ROSs attacks during PEC inactivation. Bacterial cell wall damage was then observed, including loss of cell membrane integrity and increased permeability, followed by the decomposition of cell envelope (demonstrated by scanning electronic microscope images). One of the bacterial building blocks, protein, was found to be oxidatively damaged due to the ROSs attacks, as well. Leakage of cytoplasm and biomolecules (bacterial building blocks such as proteins and nucleic acids) were evident during prolonged PEC inactivation process. The leaked cytoplasmic substances and cell debris could be further degraded and, ultimately, mineralized with prolonged PEC treatment.

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