Analysis of microbial community composition in a lab-scale membrane distillation bioreactor

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Journal Article
Journal of Applied Microbiology, 2015, 118 (4), pp. 940 - 953
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© 2015 The Authors published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Society for Applied Microbiology. Membrane distillation bioreactors (MDBR) have potential for industrial applications where wastewater is hot or waste heat is available, but the role of micro-organisms in MDBRs has never been determined, and thus was the purpose of this study. Methods and Results: Microbial communities were characterized by bacterial and archaeal 16S and eukaryotic 18S rRNA gene tag-encoded pyrosequencing of DNA obtained from sludge. Taxonomy-independent analysis revealed that bacterial communities had a relatively low richness and diversity, and community composition strongly correlated with conductivity, total nitrogen and bound extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). Taxonomy-dependent analysis revealed that Rubrobacter and Caldalkalibacillus were abundant members of the bacterial community, but no archaea were detected. Eukaryotic communities had a relatively high richness and diversity, and both changes in community composition and abundance of the dominant genus, Candida, correlated with bound EPS. Conclusions: Thermophilic MDBR communities were comprised of a low diversity bacterial community and a highly diverse eukaryotic community with no archea detected. Communities exhibited low resilience to changes in operational parameters. Specifically, retenatate nutrient composition and concentration was strongly correlated with the dominant species. Significance and Impact of the Study: This study provides an understanding of microbial community diversity in an MDBR, which is fundamental to the optimization of reactor performance.
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