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Environ Sci Technol. 2003 Jan 15;37(2):343-51.

Real-time PCR quantification of nitrifying bacteria in a municipal wastewater treatment plant.

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Department of Microbiology, Center for Environmental Biotechnology, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996, USA.


Real-time PCR assays using TaqMan or Molecular Beacon probes were developed and optimized for the quantification of total bacteria, the nitrite-oxidizing bacteria Nitrospira, and Nitrosomonas oligotropha-like ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) in mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS) from a municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) using a single-sludge nitrification process. The targets for the real-time PCR assays were the 16S rRNA genes (16S rDNA) for bacteria and Nitrospira spp. and the amoA gene for N. oligotropha. A previously reported assay for AOB 16S rDNA was also tested for its application to activated sludge. The Nitrospira 16S rDNA, AOB 16S rDNA, and N. oligotropha-like amoA assays were log-linear over 6 orders of magnitude and the bacterial 16S rDNA real-time PCR assay was log-linear over 4 orders of magnitude with DNA standards. When these real-time PCR assays were applied to DNA extracted from MLSS, dilution of the DNA extracts was necessary to prevent PCR inhibition. The optimal DNA dilution range was broad for the bacterial 16S rDNA (1000-fold) and Nitrospira 16S rDNA assays (2500-fold) but narrow for the AOB 16S rDNA assay (10-fold) and N. oligotropha-like amoA real-time PCR assay (5-fold). In twelve MLSS samples collected over one year, mean cell per L values were 4.3 +/- 2.0 x 10(11) for bacteria, 3.7 +/- 3.2 x 10(10) for Nitrospira, 1.2 +/- 0.9 x 10(10) for all AOB, and 7.5 +/- 6.0 x 10(9) for N. oligotropha-like AOB. The percent of the nitrifying population was 1.7% N. oligotropha-like AOB based on the N. oligotropha amoA assay, 2.9% total AOB based on the AOB 16S rDNA assay, and 8.6% nitrite-oxidizing bacteria based on the Nitrospira 16S rDNA assay. Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria in the wastewater treatment plant were estimated to oxidize 7.7 +/- 6.8 fmol/hr/cell based on the AOB 16S rDNA assay and 12.4 +/- 7.3 fmol/hr/cell based on the N. oligotropha amoA assay.

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