Occurrence of ammonia-oxidizing Archaea in activated sludges of a laboratory scale reactor and two wastewater treatment plants

J Appl Microbiol. 2009 Sep;107(3):970-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2009.04283.x. Epub 2009 Apr 17.


Aims: Characterization of the ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) community in activated sludge from a nitrogen removal bioreactor and wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs).

Methods and results: Three primer sets specific for ammonia mono-oxygenase alpha-subunit (amoA) were used to construct clone libraries for activated sludge sample from a nitrogen removal bioreactor. One primer set resulted in strong nonspecific PCR products. The other two clone libraries retrieved both shared and unique AOA amoA sequences. One primer set was chosen to study the AOA communities of activated sludge samples from Shatin and Stanley WWTPs. In total, 18 AOA amoA sequences were recovered and compared to the previous reported sequences. A phylogenetic analysis indicated that sequences found in this study fell into three clusters.

Conclusions: Different primers resulted in varied AOA communities from the same sample. The AOA found from Hong Kong WWTPs were closely similar to those from sediment and soil, but distinct from those from activated sludge in other places. A comparison of clone libraries between Shatin WWTP and bioreactor indicated the AOA community significantly shifted only after 30-day enrichment.

Significance and impact of the study: This study confirmed the occurrence of AOA in a laboratory scale nitrogen removal bioreactor and Hong Kong WWTPs treating saline or freshwater wastewater. AOA communities found in this study were significantly different from those found in other places. To retrieve diverse AOA communities from environmental samples, a combination of different primers for the amoA gene is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / metabolism*
  • Archaea / enzymology
  • Archaea / genetics*
  • Archaea / isolation & purification*
  • Archaeal Proteins / genetics
  • Bioreactors / microbiology*
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Archaeal / analysis
  • Genetic Variation
  • Hong Kong
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oxidoreductases / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sewage / microbiology*
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid
  • Water Microbiology


  • Archaeal Proteins
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Archaeal
  • Sewage
  • Ammonia
  • Oxidoreductases
  • ammonia monooxygenase