Analysis of the microbial community structure and function of a laboratory scale enhanced biological phosphorus removal reactor

Caterina Levantesi, Luísa S. Serafim, Gregory R. Crocetti, Paulo C. Lemos, Simona Rossetti, Linda L. Blackall, Maria A. M. Reis, Valter Tandoi

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61 Citations (Scopus)


A laboratory scale sequencing batch reactor (SBR) operating for enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) and fed with a mixture of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) showed stable and efficient EBPR capacity over a four-year-period. Phosphorus (P), poly-β-hydroxyalkanoate (PHA) and glycogen cycling consistent with classical anaerobic/aerobic EBPR were demonstrated with the order of anaerobic VFA uptake being propionate, acetate then butyrate. The SBR was operated without pH control and 63.67 ± 13.86 mg P I-1 was released anaerobically. The P% of the sludge fluctuated between 6% and 10% over the operating period (average of 8.04 ± 1.31%). Four main morphological types of floc-forming bacteria were observed in the sludge during one year of intensive microscopic observation. Two of them were mainly responsible for anaerobic/aerobic P and PHA transformations. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and post-FISH chemical staining for intracellular polyphosphate and PHA were used to determine that 'Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis' was the most abundant polyphosphate accumulating organism (PAO), forming large clusters of coccobacilli (1.0-1.5 μm) and comprising 53% of the sludge bacteria. Also by these methods, large coccobacillus-shaped gammaproteobacteria (2.5-3.5 μm) from a recently described novel cluster were glycogen-accumulating organisms (GAOs) comprising 13% of the bacteria. Tetrad-forming organisms (TFOs) consistent with the 'G bacterium' morphotype were alphaproteobacteria, but not Amaricoccus spp., and comprised 25% of all bacteria. According to chemical staining, TFOs were occasionally able to store PHA anaerobically and utilize it aerobically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-569
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2002


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