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16S Ribosomal RNA Tools Identify an Unexpected Predominance of Paenibacillus-Like Bacteria in an Industrial Activated Sludge System Suffering from Poor Biosolids Separation

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Molecular biology tools targeting 16S ribosomal RNA (16S rRNA) were used to identify a predominant bacterial population in a full-scale dairy wastewater activated sludge system suffering from poor biosolids separation. Gram and acridine orange staining indicated that viable, Gram-positive microorganisms were present in samples removed from the influent waste stream and represented approximately 50% of total cell counts in samples removed from the mixed liquor. Subsequently, the “full-cycle 16S rRNA approach” showed that phylogenetic relatives of Paenibacillus spp., a low guanine-plus-cytosine percent DNA-content, Gram-positive microorganism, represented up to 30% of total 4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI)-stained cell counts in samples of mixed liquor. Although fluorescent in situ hybridizations with 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide hybridization probes identified Paenibacillus-like spp. in samples removed from the influent waste stream, their abundance was less than 10% of total stained cell counts. Results of this study suggest that Paenibacillus-like spp. were present in low abundance in the influent waste stream, increased in relative abundance within the treatment system, and should be examined further as a candidate bacterial population responsible for poor biosolids separation. This study demonstrates that the full-cycle 16S rRNA approach can be used to identify candidate bacterial populations that may be responsible for operational upsets in full-scale activated sludge systems without prior information from cultivation or microscopic analyses.

Keywords: 16S ribosomal RNA; Paenibacillus spp; activated sludge; dairy food processing; wastewater treatment

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2006

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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