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Identification of soluble microbial products (SMPs) released during bacterial metabolism in mixed cultures in bioreactors is essential to understanding fundamental mechanisms of their biological production. SMPs constitute one of the main foulants (together with colloids and bacterial flocs) in membrane bioreactors widely used to treat and ultimately recycle wastewater. More importantly, the composition and origin of potentially toxic, carcinogenic, or mutagenic SMPs in renewable/reused water supplies must be determined and controlled. Certain classes of SMPs have previously been studied by GC-MS, LC-MS, and MALDI-ToF MS; however, a more comprehensive LC-MS-based method for SMP identification is currently lacking. Here we develop a UPLC-MS approach to profile and identify metabolite SMPs in the supernatant of an anaerobic batch bioreactor. The small biomolecules were extracted into two fractions based on their polarity, and separate methods were then used for the polar and nonpolar metabolites in the aqueous and lipid fractions, respectively. SMPs that increased in the supernatant after feed addition were identified primarily as phospholipids, ceramides, with cardiolipins in the highest relative abundance, and these lipids have not been previously reported in wastewater effluent.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of proteome research

Publication Date





559 - 570


Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University , Singapore 636921.


Humans, Ceramides, Phospholipids, Cardiolipins, Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization, Bioreactors, Waste Disposal, Fluid, Anaerobiosis, Fermentation, Biodegradation, Environmental, Tandem Mass Spectrometry, Metabolome, Microbial Consortia, Waste Water