Glycosphingolipids enhance bacterial attachment and fouling of nanofiltration membranes

Robert Haas, Jenia Gutman, Nathaniel C. Wardrip, Kazuyoshi Kawahara, Wolfgang Uhl, Moshe Herzberg, Christopher J. Arnusch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Biofouling is a ubiquitous problem in many places in society and technology, especially in reverse osmosis or nanofiltration (NF) processes. Initial stages in the development of the biofilm include attachment of bacteria to the surface, where bacterial outer membrane components such as biopolymers, lipids, and proteins play important roles. Here we show that the glycosphingolipid (GSL) unique to Sphingomonas species is a key player in the initial attachment of bacteria to NF membranes whereas lipopolysaccharide (LPS), the major glycolipid in many Gram-negative species, is less significant. GSL and LPS were deposited on an NF membrane with subsequent bacterial culture injection in a three-dimensionally printed microfluidic flow cell. Flux, rejection, and pressure changes showed that GSL caused permanent membrane fouling. This study underlines the significance of Sphingomonas for the initial attachment of bacteria to membranes. A deeper understanding and identification of key components in the biofouling process may help define strategies for biofilm prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-47
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - 10 Feb 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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