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Environ Microbiol. 2007 Aug;9(8):1898-912.

Populations related to Alkanindiges, a novel genus containing obligate alkane degraders, are implicated in biological foaming in activated sludge systems.

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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


Activated sludge mixed liquor and biological foam samples were collected from five full-scale municipal wastewater treatment plants in Illinois, all of which were exhibiting biological foaming at the time of sampling. Oligonucleotide probe hybridization consistently measured higher levels of Gammaproteobacteria rRNA in the foam as compared with the mixed liquor for all treatment plants analysed. Cloning and sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons led to the identification of populations which were abundant in each of the treatment plants. These populations were related to the Alkanindiges/Acinetobacter cluster within the Gammaproteobacteria. Further analysis of the 16S rRNA sequences indicated that they clustered in three phylogenetic groups outside the main Alkanindiges/Acinetobacter cluster, suggesting that these groups may represent new taxa. Terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis showed that these populations were enriched in the foam compared with the underlying mixed liquor similar to the enrichment of the Gammaproteobacteria measured by oligonucleotide probe membrane hybridization. The observed enrichment in foam samples is suggestive of a role for these populations in foam formation or stabilization, and their presence in all treatment plants analysed in this study may be indicative of their widespread abundance in foaming plants.

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