The activated sludge ecosystem contains a core community of abundant organisms.
ABSTRACT: Understanding the microbial ecology of a system requires that the observed population dynamics can be linked to their metabolic functions. However, functional characterization is laborious and the choice of organisms should be prioritized to those that are frequently abundant (core) or transiently abundant, which are therefore putatively make the greatest contribution to carbon turnover in the system. We analyzed the microbial communities in 13 Danish wastewater treatment plants with nutrient removal in consecutive years and a single plant periodically over 6 years, using Illumina sequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA amplicons of the V4 region. The plants contained a core community of 63 abundant genus-level operational taxonomic units (OTUs) that made up 68% of the total reads. A core community consisting of abundant OTUs was also observed within the incoming wastewater to three plants. The net growth rate for individual OTUs was quantified using mass balance, and it was found that 10% of the total reads in the activated sludge were from slow or non-growing OTUs, and that their measured abundance was primarily because of immigration with the wastewater. Transiently abundant organisms were also identified. Among them the genus Nitrotoga (class Betaproteobacteria) was the most abundant putative nitrite oxidizer in a number of activated sludge plants, which challenges previous assumptions that Nitrospira (phylum Nitrospirae) are the primary nitrite-oxidizers in activated sludge systems with nutrient removal.
Project description:Numerous past studies have shown members of the genus Nitrospira to be the predominant nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) in nitrifying wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Only recently, the novel NOB 'Candidatus Nitrotoga arctica' was identified in permafrost soil and a close relative was enriched from activated sludge. Still, little is known about diversity, distribution and functional importance of Nitrotoga in natural and engineered ecosystems. Here we developed Nitrotoga 16S rRNA-specific PCR primers and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) probes, which were applied to screen activated sludge samples from 20 full-scale WWTPs. Nitrotoga-like bacteria were detected by PCR in 11 samples and reached abundances detectable by FISH in seven sludges. They coexisted with Nitrospira in most of these WWTPs, but constituted the only detectable NOB in two systems. Quantitative FISH revealed that Nitrotoga accounted for nearly 2% of the total bacterial community in one of these plants, a number comparable to Nitrospira abundances in other WWTPs. Spatial statistics revealed that Nitrotoga coaggregated with ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, strongly supporting a functional role in nitrite oxidation. This activity was confirmed by FISH in combination with microradiography, which revealed nitrite-dependent autotrophic carbon fixation by Nitrotoga in situ. Correlation of the presence or absence with WWTP operational parameters indicated low temperatures as a main factor supporting high Nitrotoga abundances, although in incubation experiments these NOB remained active over an unexpected range of temperatures, and also at different ambient nitrite concentrations. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that Nitrotoga can be functionally important nitrite oxidizers in WWTPs and can even represent the only known NOB in engineered systems.
Project description:Nitrification is an essential process for N removal in activated sludge to avoid toxicity of ammonium and nitrite. Besides Nitrospira, "Candidatus Nitrotoga" has been identified as a key nitrite-oxidizing bacterium (NOB) performing the second step of nitrification, nitrite oxidation to nitrate, in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). However, the driving forces for the dominance of Nitrotoga in certain plants have often remained unclear and could not be explained solely by temperature effects. In this study, we characterized the physiology of the ammonium-dependent Nitrotoga sp. BS with regard to temperature and pH variations and evaluated its competitiveness against Nitrospira defluvii Both NOB originated from the same WWTP and shared a comparable pH optimum of 7.3. Based on these results, coculturing experiments with these NOB were performed in batch reactors operated at either 17°C or 22°C to compare their abundances under optimal (pH 7.4) or suboptimal (pH 6.4) conditions using 1?mM nitrite. As revealed by quantitative PCR (qPCR), fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), and 16S amplicon sequencing, Nitrotoga sp. BS was clearly favored by its optimal growth parameters and dominated over Ns. defluvii at pH 7.4 and 17°C, whereas a pH of 6.4 was more selective for Ns. defluvii Our synthetic communities revealed that niche differentiation of NOB is influenced by a complex interaction of environmental parameters and has to be evaluated for single species.IMPORTANCE "Ca. Nitrotoga" is a NOB of high environmental relevance, but physiological data exist for only a few representatives. Initially, it was detected in specialized niches of low temperature and low nitrite concentrations, but later on, its ubiquitous distribution revealed its critical role for N removal in engineered systems like WWTPs. In this study, we analyzed the competition between Nitrotoga and Nitrospira in bioreactors and identified conditions where the K strategist Ns. defluvii was almost replaced by Nitrotoga sp. BS. We show that the pH value is an important factor that regulates the composition of the nitrite-oxidizing enrichment with a dominance of Nitrotoga sp. BS versus Ns. defluvii at a neutral pH of 7.4 in combination with a temperature of 17°C. The physiological diversity of novel Nitrotoga cultures improves our knowledge about niche differentiation of NOB with regard to functional nitrification under suboptimal conditions.
Project description:Nitrification is a key process of the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle and of biological wastewater treatment. The second step, nitrite oxidation to nitrate, is catalyzed by phylogenetically diverse, chemolithoautotrophic nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB). Uncultured NOB from the genus "Candidatus Nitrotoga" are widespread in natural and engineered ecosystems. Knowledge about their biology is sparse, because no genomic information and no pure "Ca Nitrotoga" culture was available. Here we obtained the first "Ca Nitrotoga" isolate from activated sludge. This organism, "Candidatus Nitrotoga fabula," prefers higher temperatures (>20°C; optimum, 24 to 28°C) than previous "Ca Nitrotoga" enrichments, which were described as cold-adapted NOB. "Ca Nitrotoga fabula" also showed an unusually high tolerance to nitrite (activity at 30 mM NO2-) and nitrate (up to 25 mM NO3-). Nitrite oxidation followed Michaelis-Menten kinetics, with an apparent Km (Km(app)) of ~89 µM nitrite and a Vmax of ~28 µmol of nitrite per mg of protein per h. Key metabolic pathways of "Ca Nitrotoga fabula" were reconstructed from the closed genome. "Ca Nitrotoga fabula" possesses a new type of periplasmic nitrite oxidoreductase belonging to a lineage of mostly uncharacterized proteins. This novel enzyme indicates (i) separate evolution of nitrite oxidation in "Ca Nitrotoga" and other NOB, (ii) the possible existence of phylogenetically diverse, unrecognized NOB, and (iii) together with new metagenomic data, the potential existence of nitrite-oxidizing archaea. For carbon fixation, "Ca Nitrotoga fabula" uses the Calvin-Benson-Bassham cycle. It also carries genes encoding complete pathways for hydrogen and sulfite oxidation, suggesting that alternative energy metabolisms enable "Ca Nitrotoga fabula" to survive nitrite depletion and colonize new niches.IMPORTANCE Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) are major players in the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle and critical for wastewater treatment. However, most NOB remain uncultured, and their biology is poorly understood. Here, we obtained the first isolate from the environmentally widespread NOB genus "Candidatus Nitrotoga" and performed a detailed physiological and genomic characterization of this organism ("Candidatus Nitrotoga fabula"). Differences between key phenotypic properties of "Ca Nitrotoga fabula" and those of previously enriched "Ca Nitrotoga" members reveal an unexpectedly broad range of physiological adaptations in this genus. Moreover, genes encoding components of energy metabolisms outside nitrification suggest that "Ca Nitrotoga" are ecologically more flexible than previously anticipated. The identification of a novel nitrite-oxidizing enzyme in "Ca Nitrotoga fabula" expands our picture of the evolutionary history of nitrification and might lead to discoveries of novel nitrite oxidizers. Altogether, this study provides urgently needed insights into the biology of understudied but environmentally and biotechnologically important microorganisms.
Project description:Seasonal community structure and regionally synchronous population dynamics have been observed in natural microbial ecosystems, but have not been well documented in wastewater treatment bioreactors. Few studies of community dynamics in full-scale activated sludge systems facing similar meteorological conditions have been done to compare the importance of deterministic and neutral community assembly mechanisms. We subjected weekly activated sludge samples from six regional full-scale bioreactors at four wastewater treatment plants obtained over 1 year to Illumina sequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA genes, resulting in a library of over 17 million sequences. All samples derived from reactors treating primarily municipal wastewater. Despite variation in operational characteristics and location, communities displayed temporal synchrony at the individual operational taxonomic unit (OTU), broad phylogenetic affiliation and community-wide scale. Bioreactor communities were dominated by 134 abundant and highly regionally synchronized OTU populations that accounted for over 50% of the total reads. Non-core OTUs displayed abundance-dependent population synchrony. Alpha diversity varied by reactor, but showed a highly reproducible and synchronous seasonal fluctuation. Community similarity was dominated by seasonal changes, but individual reactors maintained minor stable differences after 1 year. Finally, the impacts of mass migration driven by direct biomass transfers between reactors was investigated, but had no significant effect on community similarity or diversity in the sink community. Our results show that population dynamics in activated sludge bioreactors are consistent with niche-driven assembly guided by seasonal temperature fluctuations.
Project description:Anaerobic digestion is widely applied to treat organic waste at wastewater treatment plants. Characterisation of the underlying microbiology represents a source of information to develop strategies for improved operation. Hence, we investigated microbial communities of thirty-two full-scale anaerobic digesters over a six-year period using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Sampling of the sludge fed into these systems revealed that several of the most abundant populations were likely inactive and immigrating with the influent. This observation indicates that a failure to consider immigration will interfere with correlation analysis and give an inaccurate picture of the growing microbial community. Furthermore, several abundant OTUs could not be classified to genus level with commonly applied taxonomies, making inference of their function unreliable and comparison to other studies problematic. As such, the existing MiDAS taxonomy was updated to include these abundant phylotypes. The communities of individual digesters surveyed were remarkably similar - with only 300 OTUs representing 80% of the total reads across all plants, and 15% of these identified as non-growing and possibly inactive immigrating microbes. By identifying abundant and growing taxa in anaerobic digestion, this study paves the way for targeted characterisation of the process-important organisms towards an in-depth understanding of the microbiology.
Project description:Nitrite oxidation is a key step in nitrogen removal in biological wastewater treatment plants. Recently, two phylogenetically different Nitrospira (sublineages I and II) have been recognized as the numerically dominant nitrite-oxidizing bacteria in wastewater treatment plants. However, Nitrospira sublineage II inhabiting activated sludge was not isolated and its detailed properties were unclear. In this study, we developed a new method for the isolation of Nitrospira forming micro-colonies using a cell sorter. We obtained a novel pure strain "Nitrospira japonica" from the activated sludge. Subsequently, phylogenetic and physiological analyses revealed that Nitrospira japonica belongs to sublineage II and grew in medium containing formate. This method has the potential to isolate other uncultured microorganisms forming micro-colonies.
Project description:Limited information is currently available on the assembly processes (deterministic vs. stochastic) shaping the compositions of key microbial communities in activated sludge (AS). The relative importance of deterministic and stochastic processes for key bacterial and archaeal assemblages (i.e., core-satellite and habitat generalist-specialist) in AS from 13 wastewater treatment plants in China was investigated using 16S rDNA amplicon sequencing. The results obtained indicated 1,388 and 369 core operational taxonomic units (OTUs), 1,038 and 1,683 satellite OTUs, 255 and 48 habitat generalist OTUs, and 192 and 111 habitat specialist OTUs for Bacteria and Archaea, respectively. The proportions of shared OTUs between core and habitat specialist communities were similar to or higher than those between core and habitat generalist communities, suggesting a stronger inter-linkage between the former two groups. Deterministic processes, indicated by abundance-based ?-null models, were responsible for shaping core communities, in which NH4-N, OrgC/OrgN, Cr, and Ni were the main controlling factors. In contrast, satellite communities were predominantly influenced by stochastic processes. Moreover, we found that deterministic and stochastic processes were mainly responsible for shaping the assembly of habitat specialists and generalists, respectively. However, the influence of deterministic factors on habitat specialists remains unclear. The present study provides novel insights into the assembly mechanisms of AS microbial communities.
Project description:By modification of the operational conditions of batch reactors, a municipal wastewater treatment plant was upgraded from activated sludge to aerobic granular sludge (AGS) technology. After upgrading, the volume of the biological reactors was reduced by 30%, but the quality of the effluent substantially improved. The concentration of biomass in the reactors increased twofold; the average biomass yield was 0.6 g MLVSS/g COD, and excess granular sludge was efficiently stabilized in aerobic conditions. Canonical correspondence analysis based on the results of next-generation sequencing showed that the time of adaptation significantly influenced the microbial composition of the granules. In mature granules, the abundance of ammonium-oxidizing bacteria was very low, while the abundance of the nitrite-oxidizing bacteria Nitrospira sp. was 0.5 ± 0.1%. The core genera were Tetrasphaera, Sphingopyxis, Dechloromonas, Flavobacterium, and Ohtaekwangia. Bacteria belonging to these genera produce extracellular polymeric substances, which stabilize granule structure and accumulate phosphorus. The results of this study will be useful for designers of AGS wastewater treatment plants, and molecular data given here provide insight into the ecology of mature aerobic granules from a full-scale facility.
Project description:In this study, high-throughput pyrosequencing was applied on the analysis of the microbial community of activated sludge and biofilm in a lab-scale UV/O3- anaerobic/aerobic (A/O) integrated process for the treatment of petrochemical nanofiltration concentrate (NFC) wastewater. NFC is a type of saline wastewater with low biodegradability. From the anaerobic activated sludge (Sample A) and aerobic biofilm (Sample O), 59,748 and 51,231 valid sequence reads were obtained, respectively. The dominant phylotypes related to the metabolism of organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) biodegradation, assimilation of carbon from benzene, and the biodegradation of nitrogenous organic compounds were detected as genus Clostridium, genera Pseudomonas and Stenotrophomonas, class Betaproteobacteria, and genus Hyphomicrobium. Furthermore, the nitrite-oxidising bacteria Nitrospira, nitrite-reducing and sulphate-oxidising bacteria (NR-SRB) Thioalkalivibrio were also detected. In the last twenty operational days, the total Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) and Total Organic Carbon (TOC) removal efficiencies on average were 64.93% and 62.06%, respectively. The removal efficiencies of ammonia nitrogen and Total Nitrogen (TN) on average were 90.51% and 75.11% during the entire treatment process.
Project description:This work studied the microbial community in partial nitritation and complete nitrification processes, which were applied to treat the low Carbon Nitrogen ratio wastewater. The phospholipid fatty acid and quantitative PCR analysis showed that the sludge circulating ratio of 75% resulted in a good microbial growth and a higher abundance of ammonia oxidizing bacteria relative to the nitrite oxidizing bacteria. The Betaproteobacteria were observed to compose the most abundant sludge bacterial groups in the two processes, based on phylogenetic analysis. The phylogenetic analysis of both 16S rRNA and amoA gene indicated that the Nitrosomonas sp. were the dominant ammonia oxidizing bacteria in the partial nitritation process. The relative abundance of nitrite oxidizing bacteria, such as Nitrobacter sp. and Nitrospira sp., were significantly lower in the partial nitritation system over the complete nitrification system. The abundance of Planctomycetes was higher in the partial nitritation process, indicating the anammox reaction occurred in the partial nitritation system. These results suggested the nitrite accumulation rate of circulating ratios 75% was the highest, with an average of 92%,and a possibility to treat the low Carbon Nitrogen ratio wastewater using the partial nitritation/anammox process.