Naturally Ocurring Polyphosphate-accumulating Bacteria in Benthic Biofilms

Friday, 19 December 2014
Nicholas Albert Locke1, Sheila M Saia2, Michael Todd Walter2, Hunter J Carrick3, Anthony R Buda4 and John Regan1, (1)Pennsylvania State University Main Campus, Environmental Engineering, University Park, PA, United States, (2)Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, United States, (3)Central Michigan University, Biology, Mount Pleasant, MI, United States, (4)USDA ARS, University Park, PA, United States
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.