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REVIEW: Microbial Selection of Polyphosphate-Accumulating Bacteria in Activated Sludge Wastewater Treatment Processes for Enhanced Biological Phosphate Removal

T. Mino

Department of Environmental Studies, The University of Tokyo 7-3-1, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8656; fax: +81-3-5841-8531; E-mail: mino@k.u-tokyo.ac.jp

Received December 7, 1999
Activated sludge processes with alternating anaerobic and aerobic conditions (the anaerobic-aerobic process) have been successfully used for enhanced biological phosphate removal (EBPR) from wastewater. It is known that polyphosphate-accumulating bacteria (PAB) play an essential role for EBPR in the anaerobic-aerobic process. The present paper reviews limited information available on the metabolism and the microbial community structure of EBPR, highlighting the microbial ecological selection of PAB in EBPR processes. Exposure of microorganisms to alternate carbon-rich anaerobic environments and carbon-poor aerobic environments in the anaerobic-aerobic process induces the key metabolic characteristics of PAB, which include organic substrate uptake followed by its conversion to stored polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) and hydrolysis of intracellular polyphosphate accompanied by subsequent Pi release under anaerobic conditions. Intracellular glycogen is assumed to function as a regulator of the redox balance in the cell. Storage of glycogen is a key strategy for PAB to maintain the redox balance in the anaerobic uptake of various organic substrates, and hence to win in the microbial selection. Acinetobacter spp., Microlunatus phosphovorus, Lampropedia spp., and the Rhodocyclus group have been reported as candidates of PAB. PAB may not be composed of a few limited genospecies, but involve phylogenetically and taxonomically diverse groups of bacteria. To define microbial community structure of EBPR processes, it is needed to look more closely into the occurrence and behavior of each species of PAB in various EBPR processes mainly by molecular methods because many of PAB seem to be impossible to culture.
KEY WORDS: Acinetobacter, activated sludge, anaerobic-aerobic process, ecological selection, enhanced biological phosphate removal (EBPR), glycogen, Lampropedia, microbial community, Microlunatus phosphovorus, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), polyphosphate-accumulating bacteria, Rhodocyclus, wastewater treatment