Enantioselective biodegradation of pharmaceuticals, alprenolol and propranolol, by an activated sludge inoculum

Ana R. Ribeiro, Carlos M. Afonso, Paula M. L. Castro, Maria E. Tiritan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Biodegradation of chiral pharmaceuticals in the environment can be enantioselective. Thus quantification of enantiomeric fractions during the biodegradation process is crucial for assessing the fate of chiral pollutants. This work presents the biodegradation of alprenolol and propranolol using an activated sludge inoculum, monitored by a validated enantioselective HPLC method with fluorescence detection. The enantioseparation was optimized using a vancomycin-based chiral stationary phase under polar ionic mode. The method was validated using a minimal salts medium inoculated with activated sludge as matrix. The method was selective and linear in the range of 10-800ng/ml, with a R2>0.99. The accuracy ranged from 85.0 percent to 103 percent, the recovery ranged from 79.9 percent to 103 percent, and the precision measured by the relative standard deviation (RSD) was <7.18 percent for intra-batch and <5.39 percent for inter-batch assays. The limits of quantification and detection for all enantiomers were 10ng/ml and 2.5ng/ml, respectively. The method was successfully applied to follow the biodegradation of the target pharmaceuticals using an activated sludge inoculum during a fifteen days assay. The results indicated slightly higher biodegradation rates for the S-enantiomeric forms of both beta-blockers. The presence of another carbon source maintained the enantioselective degradation pattern while enhancing biodegradation extent up to fourteen percent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-114
Number of pages7
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • Alprenolol
  • Beta-blockers
  • Chiral ecotoxicity
  • Chirobiotic CSP
  • Enantioselective biodegradation
  • Propranolol


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