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Effect of alternating electrical current on denitrifying bacteria in a microbial electrochemical system: biofilm viability and ATP assessment

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The present study considers the impact of the alternating electric current on the viability and biological activity of denitrifying bacteria in a microbial electrochemical system (MES). The bio-stimulation using low-frequency low-voltage alternating current (AC) was studied in terms of the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) level of bacteria, viability, morphological characteristics, cell size, and complexity. Apoptosis assays by flow cytometry revealed that 81–95% of the cells were non-apoptotic, and cell membrane damage occurred < 18%. The applied AC could affect the bacterial metabolic activity and ATP content in the denitrifying bacteria depending on characteristics of the alternating electric current. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis of cell morphology illustrated low cell deformations under AC stimulation. The obtained results revealed that the applied alternating electrical current could increase the metabolic activity of denitrifying bacteria, leading to a better denitrification.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge Mrs. Maryam Moradi, Mr. Yousefi, Mrs. Mohseni, and Mrs. Masoudi from Tarbiat Modares University for technical assistance.


This study was supported by Tarbiat Modares University, Ph.D. thesis support. This study was financially supported by grant no: 950603 of the Biotechnology Development Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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Correspondence to Abbas Rezaee.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Dehghani, S., Rezaee, A. & Hosseinkhani, S. Effect of alternating electrical current on denitrifying bacteria in a microbial electrochemical system: biofilm viability and ATP assessment. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 33591–33598 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-3170-0

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  • Electrostimulation
  • Alternating current
  • Viability
  • ATP
  • Microbial electrochemical system
  • Bioprocess engineering