The consumption of nootropic drugs has increased tremendously in the last decade, though the studies on their environmental fate are still scarce. Nootropics are bioactive compounds designed to alter human’s physiology therefore the adverse effects towards wildlife can be expected. In order to understand their environmental impact, the knowledge on their transformation pathways is necessary. Methylphenidate belongs to the most prescribed neuro-enhancers and is among the most favored smart drugs used in non-medical situations. It is metabolized in human liver and excreted as ritalinic acid. Here, we showed for the first time that ritalinic acid can be biodegraded and used as a sole carbon and nitrogen source by various microbial strains originating from different environmental samples. Five axenic strains were isolated and identified as: Arthrobacter sp. strain MW1, MW2 and MW3, Phycicoccus sp. strain MW4 and Nocardioides sp. strain MW5. Our research provides the first insight into the metabolism of ritalinic acid and suggests that it may differ depending on the strain and growth conditions, especially on availability of nitrogen. The isolates obtained in this study can serve as model organisms in further studies on the catabolism of ritalinic acid and methylphenidate but potentially also other compounds with similar structures. Our findings have important implication for the sewage epidemiology. We demonstrated that ritalinic acid is subject to quick and efficient biodegradation thus its use as a stable biomarker should be reconsidered.
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