Many kinds of antibiotics are continuously discharged into wastewater and typically cause a great decrease in sewage treatment performance, whereas mechanisms of differences in the impacts of commonly used antibiotics on phosphate removal are still elusive. Thus, an enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) system, as an effective method of phosphate removal, was developed, and its performance in the treatment of artificial wastewater containing antibiotics at short- (8 h) and long-term (15 days) exposure was investigated. The results show that phosphorus removal was consistently inhibited by the addition of antibiotics with a significant difference (P < 0.05). To interpret the phenomena, mechanistic equations were developed, and the results indicate that for short-term tests, the difference was mainly caused by the suppression of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) degradation and the activity of polyphosphate kinase (PPK), resulting in the different inhibition of the soluble orthophosphorus (SOP) uptake process. For long-term tests, the difference in SOP uptake was principally caused by the inhibition of PHA degradation and the activity of PPK, whereas the difference in SOP release resulted from the inhibition of activities of exopolyphosphatase (PPX) and adenylate kinase (ADK). Moreover, micro-mechanisms of such inhibition were identified from molecular docking and electrostatic potential.
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