This study systematically investigated the metabolism of pentachlorophenol (PCP) in batch experiments using coupled sludge granules under various dissolved oxygen concentrations. Results indicated that the oxygen condition in serum bottles has a significant effect on the microorganism metabolism. A greater degree of mineralization of PCP was achieved under oxygen-limited conditions (e.g., 40 and 60 initial headspace oxygen percentage (IHOP)), producing trichlorophenol (TCP), dichlorophenol (DCP) and monochlorophenol (MCP) as intermediates and chloride as one of the final products. Reductive dechlorination was identified as the primary pathway for the PCP degradation. Under strictly anaerobic or slightly oxidative conditions (0 and 20 IHOP), the reductive dechlorination of PCP led to an accumulation of TCP. Under aerobic conditions (80 and 100 IHOP), PCP degradation was less significant due to the hindered reductive chlorination in the presence of oxygen. It is also observed that cell hydrophobicity, protein (PN) concentration, settling velocity and specific gravity of the sludge granules decreased with IHOP from 0 to 60, and then increased with IHOP from 60 to 100. Specific methanogenic activity (SMA) and specific oxygen uptake rate (SOUR) confirmed that degradation of PCP was achieved by methanogenic and methanotrophic populations coexisting in a single granule. Because of a combination of reductive and oxidative degradation mechanisms, aerobic or facultative bacteria were found to oxidize the intermediates of PCP degradation products produced by methanogens and strict anaerobes during fermentation.

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