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The ecology of the Chloroflexi in full-scale activated sludge wastewater treatment plants

By Marta Nierychlo, Aleksandra Miłobędzka, Francesca Petriglieri, Bianca McIlroy, Per Halkjær Nielsen, Simon Jon McIlroy

Posted 31 May 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/335752 (published DOI: 10.1093/femsec/fiy228)

Filamentous bacteria belonging to the phylum Chloroflexi have received considerable attention in wastewater treatment systems for their suggested role in operational problem of impaired sludge settleability known as bulking. Their consistently high abundance in full-scale systems, even in the absence of bulking, indicates that they make a substantial contribution to the nutrient transformations during wastewater treatment. In this study, extensive 16S rRNA amplicon surveys of full-scale Danish WWTPs were screened to identify the most numerically important Chloroflexi genera. Fluorescence in situ hybridization probes were designed for their in situ characterization. All abundant phylotypes of the phylum were identified as facultative anaerobic chemoorganotrophs involved in fermentation of sugars. These groups were all filamentous but differed in their morphology and spatial arrangement. "Candidatus Villogracilis" was predominantly located within the activated sludge flocs, where they possibly have structural importance, and their abundance was relatively stable. Conversely, the abundance of "Candidatus Amarilinum" was highly dynamic, relative to other genera, sometimes reaching abundances in excess of 30% of the biovolume, suggesting their likely role in bulking episodes. This study gives an important insight into the role of Chloroflexi in WWTPs, thus contributing to the broader goal of understanding the ecology of these biotechnologically important systems.

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