Ecophysiology of mycolic acid-containing Actinobacteria (Mycolata) in activated sludge foams

FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2007 Jul;61(1):174-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2007.00324.x. Epub 2007 Apr 27.


Increasing incidences of activated sludge foaming have been reported in the last decade in Danish plants treating both municipal and industrial wastewaters. In most cases, foaming is caused by the presence of Actinobacteria; branched mycolic acid-containing filaments (the Mycolata) and the unbranched Candidatus'Microthix parvicella'. Surveys from wastewater treatment plants revealed that the Mycolata were the dominant filamentous bacteria in the foam. Gordonia amarae-like organisms and those with the morphology of Skermania piniformis were frequently observed, and they often coexisted. Their identity was confirmed by FISH, using a new permeabilization procedure. It was not possible to identify all abundant Mycolata using existing FISH probes, which suggests the presence of currently undetectable and potentially undescribed populations. Furthermore, some Mycolata failed to give any FISH signal, although substrate uptake experiments with microautoradiography revealed that they were physiologically active. Ecophysiological studies were performed on the Mycolata identified by their morphology or FISH in both foams and mixed liquors. Large differences were seen among the Mycolata in levels of substrate assimilation and substrate uptake abilities in the presence of different electron acceptors. These differences were ascribed mainly to the presence of currently undescribed Mycolata species and/or differences in foam age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actinomycetales / chemistry
  • Actinomycetales / metabolism
  • Actinomycetales / physiology*
  • Aerobiosis / physiology
  • Anaerobiosis / physiology
  • Autoradiography
  • Cell Proliferation
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence / methods
  • Microscopy
  • Mycolic Acids / analysis*
  • Permeability
  • Polymers / metabolism
  • Sewage / microbiology*


  • Mycolic Acids
  • Polymers
  • Sewage