Survival strategy of comammox bacteria in a wastewater nutrient removal system with sludge fermentation liquid as additional carbon source

Shaoyi Xu, Wenbo Chai, Rui Xiao, Barth F. Smets, Alejandro Palomo, Huijie Lu

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    Abstract

    Complete ammonia oxidizing (comammox) bacteria are frequently detected in wastewater biological nutrient removal (BNR) systems. This study identified “Candidatus Nitrospira nitrosa”-like comammox bacteria as the predominant ammonia oxidizers (97.5–99.4%) in a lab-scale BNR system with acetate and sludge fermentation liquid as external carbon sources. The total nitrogen and phosphorus removals of the system were 75.9% and 86.9% with minimal N2O emission (0.27%). Low ammonia concentration, mixotrophic growth potentials and metabolic interactions with diverse heterotrophs collectively contributed to the survival of comammox bacteria in the system. The recovered draft genomes of comammox bacteria indicated their potentials in using acetate and propionate but not butyrate. Acetate and propionate indeed stimulated the transcription of comammox amoA genes (up-regulated by 4.1 folds compared with no organic addition), which was positively correlated with the ammonia oxidation rate of the community (r = 0.75, p < 0.05). Comammox bacteria could provide vitamins/cofactors (e.g., cobalamin and biotin) to heterotrophs (e.g., Burkholderiaceae), and in return receive amino acids (e.g., phenylalanine and tyrosine) from heterotrophs, which they cannot synthesize. Compared with comammox bacteria, ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) exhibited lower metabolic versatility, and lacked more pathways for the synthesis of amino acids and vitamin/cofactors, leading to their washout in the studied system. BNRs with comammox bacteria as the major nitrifiers hold great potentials in achieving superior performance at low aeration cost and low N2O emission and at full-scale plants.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number149862
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Volume802
    Number of pages9
    ISSN0048-9697
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2022

    Keywords

    • Nutrient removal
    • Comammox
    • Volatile fatty acid
    • Mixotrophic growth
    • Metabolic interaction

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