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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Feb;71(2):1051-7.

Composition and distribution of extracellular polymeric substances in aerobic flocs and granular sludge.

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  • 1Department of Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, USA. bmcswain@nd.edu


Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) were quantified in flocculent and aerobic granular sludge developed in two sequencing batch reactors with the same shear force but different settling times. Several EPS extraction methods were compared to investigate how different methods affect EPS chemical characterization, and fluorescent stains were used to visualize EPS in intact samples and 20-mum cryosections. Reactor 1 (operated with a 10-min settle) enriched predominantly flocculent sludge with a sludge volume index (SVI) of 120 +/- 12 ml g(-1), and reactor 2 (2-min settle time) formed compact aerobic granules with an SVI of 50 +/- 2 ml g(-1). EPS extraction by using a cation-exchange resin showed that proteins were more dominant than polysaccharides in all samples, and the protein content was 50% more in granular EPS than flocculent EPS. NaOH and heat extraction produced a higher protein and polysaccharide content from cell lysis. In situ EPS staining of granules showed that cells and polysaccharides were localized to the outer edge of granules, whereas the center was comprised mostly of proteins. These observations confirm the chemical extraction data and indicate that granule formation and stability are dependent on a noncellular, protein core. The comparison of EPS methods explains how significant cell lysis and contamination by dead biomass leads to different and opposing conclusions.

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