Naturally Ocurring Polyphosphate-accumulating Bacteria in Benthic Biofilms
Friday, 19 December 2014
Polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs), known to store excess phosphorus (P) as polyphosphate (poly-P), influence P transport in the environment. Enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) from wastewater has long served as a basis to study bacterial PAOs, yet little research has genetically identified similar organisms in natural settings. Aerobic/anaerobic cycles, used to select for PAOs in EBPR, can result from changing environmental conditions such as night/day cycles for benthic biofilms. Benthic biofilms from eight Pennsylvanian streams were studied for naturally-occurring bacterial PAOs similar to those typically found in EBPR systems. PAOs were confirmed in the benthic biofilms by a characteristic yellow fluorescent emission from DAPI staining. Cells containing yellow fluorescence were separated from the rest of the sample using a flow cytometer, resulting in a physically enriched culture of PAOs from the benthic biofilms. Amplicon-based metagenomic sequencing will reveal the phylogeny of bacteria responsible for poly-P accumulation in these benthic biofilms. Sequencing data will be used to develop fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH) probes, and hybridizations will be performed on DAPI-stained cells to confirm poly-P accumulation by targeted phylotypes. Identifying PAOs in natural settings is a critical step towards studying environments that support high concentrations of PAOs, serving as significant factors in the P cycle. PAOs can then be connected to P transport models to help understand and mitigate P pollution in agricultural watersheds.