Application of a novel functional gene microarray to probe the functional ecology of ammonia oxidation in nitrifying activated sludge
Short, MD and Abell, GCJ and Bodrossy, L and van den Akker, B, Application of a novel functional gene microarray to probe the functional ecology of ammonia oxidation in nitrifying activated sludge, PLoS One, 8, (10) Article e77139. ISSN 1932-6203 (2013) [Refereed Article]
We report on the first study trialling a newly-developed, functional gene microarray (FGA) for characterising bacterial and archaeal ammonia oxidisers in activated sludge. Mixed liquor (ML) and media biofilm samples from a full-scale integrated fixed-film activated sludge (IFAS) plant were analysed with the FGA to profile the diversity and relative abundance of ammonia-oxidising archaea and bacteria (AOA and AOB respectively). FGA analyses of AOA and AOB communities revealed ubiquitous distribution of AOA across all samples – an important finding for these newly-discovered and poorly characterised organisms. Results also revealed striking differences in the functional ecology of attached versus suspended communities within the IFAS reactor. Quantitative assessment of AOB and AOA functional gene abundance revealed a dominance of AOB in the ML and approximately equal distribution of AOA and AOB in the media-attached biofilm. Subsequent correlations of functional gene abundance data with key water quality parameters suggested an important functional role for media-attached AOB in particular for IFAS reactor nitrification performance and indicate possible functional redundancy in some IFAS ammonia oxidiser communities. Results from this investigation demonstrate the capacity of the FGA to resolve subtle ecological shifts in key microbial communities in nitrifying activated sludge and indicate its value as a tool for better understanding the linkages between the ecology and performance of these engineered systems.
community ecology, ammonia, microbial ecology, sludge, microarrays, plant ecology, community structure, biofilms