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Journal of Environmental Sciences
Volume 86, 2019, Pages 120-130

Functional relationship between ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and ammonia-oxidizing archaea populations in the secondary treatment system of a full-scale municipal wastewater treatment plant

Golam M.Islam1, Peter Vi1, Kimberley Ann Gilbride1,2

Department of Chemistry and Biology, Ryerson University, 350 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario M5B 2K3, Canada.


The abundance of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and archaea and their amoA genes from the aerobic activated sludge tanks, recycled sludge and anaerobic digesters of a full-scale wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) was determined. Polymerase chain reaction and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis were used to generate diversity profiles, which showed that each population had a consistent profile although the abundance of individual members varied. In the aerobic tanks, the ammonia-oxidizing bacterial (AOB) population was more than 350 times more abundant than the ammonia-oxidizing archaeal (AOA) population, however in the digesters, the AOA population was more than 10 times more abundant. Measuring the activity of the amoA gene expression of the two populations using RT-PCR also showed that the AOA amoA gene was more active in the digesters than in the activated sludge tanks. Using batch reactors and ddPCR, amoA activity could be measured and it was found that when the AOB amoA activity was inhibited in the anoxic reactors, the expression of the AOA amoA gene increased fourfold. This suggests that these two populations may have a cooperative relationship for the oxidation of ammonia.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Wastewater treatment, Ammonia-oxidation, Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB), Ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA), PCR, Digital droplet polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR).

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