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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

In vitro bioanalysis of drinking water from source to tap

Rosenmai, Anna Kjerstine; Lundqvist, Johan; le Godec, Theo; Ohisson, Asa; Troger, Rikard; Hellman, Bjorn; Oskarsson, Agneta


The presence of chemical pollutants in sources of drinking water is a key environmental problem threatening public health. Efficient removal of pollutants in drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs) is needed as well as methods for assessment of the total impact of all present chemicals on water quality. In the present study we have analyzed the bioactivity of water samples from source to tap, including effects of various water treatments in a DWTP, using a battery of cell-based bioassays, covering health-relevant endpoints. Reporter gene assays were used to analyze receptor activity of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), estrogen receptor (ER), androgen receptor (AR), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPAR alpha) and induction of oxidative stress by the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). DNA damage was determined by Comet assay. Grab water samples were concentrated by HLB or ENV solid phase extraction and the water samples assayed at a relative enrichment factor of 50. The enrichment procedure did not induce any bioactivity. No bioactivity was detected in Milli-Q water or drinking water control samples. Induction of AhR, ER and Nrf2 activities was revealed in source to tap water samples. No cytotoxicity, PPAR alpha or AR antagonist activity, or DNA damage were observed in any of the water samples. A low AR agonist activity was detected in a few samples of surface water, but not in the samples from the DWTP. The treatment steps at the DWTP, coagulation, granulated activated carbon filtration, UV disinfection and NH2CI dosing had little or no effect on the AhR, Nrf2 and ER bioactivity. However, nano filtration and passage through the distribution network drastically decreased AhR activity, while the effect on Nrf2 activity was more modest and no apparent effect was observed on ER activity. The present results suggest that bioassays are useful tools for evaluation of the efficiency of different treatment steps in DWTPs in reducing toxic activities. Bioassays of AhR and Nrf2 are useful for screening of effects of a broad range of chemicals in drinking water and ER activity can be monitored with a high sensitivity. (C) 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Bioassay; Effect-based assessment; Drinking water treatment; Estrogen receptor; Aryl hydrocarbon receptor; Nrf(2)

Published in

Water Research
2018, volume: 139, pages: 272-280

Authors' information

Rosenmai, Anna
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biomedical Science and Veterinary Public Health
le Godec, Théo (le Godec, Théo)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biomedical Science and Veterinary Public Health
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Hellman, Björn
Uppsala University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG6 Clean water and sanitation
SDG3 Good health and well-being

UKÄ Subject classification

Water Treatment

Publication Identifiers


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