The community structure and metabolic function of activated sludge carrying out enhanced biological phosphorus removal have been investigated. Laboratory-scale sequencing batch reactors were operated at several influent COD/P ratios to obtain sludges with a range of phosphorus contents. Molecular microbiological techniques based on small subunit ribosomal RNA were used to characterize the structure of these sludges. The dominant polyphosphate accumulating organism was a close relative of Rhodocyclus tenuis, a member of the beta subclass of the Proteobacteria. Fragments of genes coding for polyphosphate kinase (PPK), thought to be responsible for polyphosphate accumulation, were retrieved from one of the sludges. The relative abundance of PPK gene copies in genomic DNA extracted from sludges was determined to confirm that at least one of the PPK gene sequences was derived from the dominant polyphosphate accumulating organism.