Functional Response of MBR Microbial Consortia to Substrate Stress as Revealed by Metaproteomics

Carlo Salerno, Giovanni Berardi, Giuseppe Laera, Alfieri Pollice
Microbial Ecology 2019 April 12
Bacterial consortia have a primary role in the biological degradations occurring in activated sludge for wastewater treatment, for their capacities to metabolize the polluting matter. Therefore, the knowledge of the main metabolic pathways for the degradation of pollutants becomes critical for a correct design and operation of wastewater treatment plants. The metabolic activity of the different bacterial groups in activated sludge is commonly investigated through respirometry. Furthermore, in the last years, the development of "omic" approaches has offered more opportunities to integrate or substitute the conventional microbiological assays and to deeply understand the taxonomy and dynamics of complex microbial consortia. In the present work, an experimental membrane bioreactor (MBR) was set up and operated for the treatment of municipal wastewater, and the effects of a sudden decrease of the organic supply on the activated sludge were investigated. Both respirometric and metaproteomic approaches revealed a resistance of autotrophic bacteria to the substrate stress, and particularly of nitrifying bacteria. Furthermore, metaproteomics allowed the identification of the taxonomy of the microbial consortium based on its protein expression, unveiling the prevalence of Sorangium and Nitrosomonas genera both before and after the organic load decrease. Moreover, it confirmed the results obtained through respirometry and revealed a general expression of proteins involved in metabolism and transport of nitrogen, or belonging to nitrifying species like Nitrosomonas europeae, Nitrosomonas sp. AL212, or Nitrospira defluvii.

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