Transition of microbial community structures after development of membrane fouling in membrane bioreactors (MBRs)

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Abstract

Although membrane fouling is a major issue when operating membrane bioreactors (MBRs), information regarding MBR performance and the sludge microbiome after the development of fouling remains limited. For the present study, two MBRs were operated for approximately 1 month under conditions of membrane fouling to investigate the effects of highly stressed environments on the sludge microbiome. After the development of fouling, a Collimonas-related operational taxonomic unit (OTU) was highly dominant in both reactors (relative abundances were ⁓ 63%) and this predomination caused a precipitous decline in the diversity indices of the sludge microbiomes. Because the excessive predomination by limited numbers of OTUs can lead to reductions in the adaptability to environmental changes, monitoring microbial diversity may be a valuable indicator for maintaining the robustness of a sludge microbiome. While, the decrease in the abundance of the Collimonas-related OTU resulted in the predomination of distinct microorganisms in each of the reactors despite being operated under the same conditions; this finding indicates existence of strong pressure to perturb the microbiomes. Detailed analyses suggested that the availability of terminal electron acceptors and competitive interactions between microbes via the secretion of extracellular proteins appeared to differentiate the structures of the respective microbial communities. During the extracellular proteins were secreted in the sludge, considerable portion of microbes were dead and large amounts of biomolecules seemed to be released; resultantly facilitated the predomination of fermentative anaerobes in one reactor as they use organic substances but not inorganic terminal electron acceptors to generate ATP under anaerobic conditions.

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Sato, Y., Zhao, Y. J., Hori, T., Aoyagi, T., Inaba, T., Aizawa, H., … Habe, H. (2020). Transition of microbial community structures after development of membrane fouling in membrane bioreactors (MBRs). AMB Express, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13568-020-0959-2

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