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Ecophysiology of a group of uncultured Gammaproteobacterial glycogen-accumulating organisms in full-scale enhanced biological phosphorus removal wastewater treatment plants

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The presence of glycogen-accumulating organisms (GAOs) in enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) plants can seriously deteriorate the biological P-removal by out-competing the polyphosphate-accumulating organisms (PAOs). In this study, uncultured putative GAOs (the GB group, belonging to the Gammaproteobacteria) were investigated in detail in 12 full-scale EBPR plants. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) revealed that the biovolume of the GB bacteria constituted 2–6% of total bacterial biovolume. At least six different subgroups of the GB bacteria were found, and the number of dominant subgroups present in each plant varied between one and five. Ecophysiological investigations using microautoradiography in combination with FISH showed that, under aerobic or anaerobic conditions, all subgroups of the GB bacteria could take up acetate, pyruvate, propionate and some amino acids, while some subgroups in addition could take up formate and thymidine. Glucose, ethanol, butyrate and several other organic substrates were not taken up. Glycolysis was essential for the anaerobic uptake of organic substrates. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) but not polyphosphate (polyP) granules were detected in all GB bacterial cells. Polyhydroxyalkanoate formation after anaerobic uptake of acetate was confirmed by measuring the increase in fluorescence intensity of PHA granules inside GB bacterial cells after Nile blue staining. One GB subgroup was possibly able to denitrify, and several others were able to reduce nitrate to nitrite. PAOs were also enumerated by FISH in the same treatment plants. Rhodocyclus-related PAOs and Actinobacteria-related PAOs constituted up to 7% and 29% of total bacterial biovolume respectively. Rhodocyclus-related PAOs always coexisted with the GB bacteria and showed many physiological similarities. Factors of importance for the competition between the three groups of important bacteria in EBPR plants are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Life Science, Section of Environmental Engineering, Aalborg University, DK-9000 Aalborg, Denmark.

Publication date: 01 March 2006

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