Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria and contribute significant changes in the overall bacterial community. Prophages are formed when temperate bacteriophages integrate their DNA into the bacterial chromosome during the lysogenic cycle of the phage infection to bacteria. The prophage (phage DNA integrated into bacterial genome) on the bacterial genome remains dormant, but can cause cell lysis under certain environmental conditions. This research examined the effect of various environmental stress factors on the ammonia oxidation and prophage induction in a model ammonia oxidizing bacteria Nitrosospira multiformis ATCC 25196. The factors included in the study were pH, temperature, organic carbon (COD), the presence of heavy metal in the form of chromium (VI) and the toxicity as potassium cyanide (KCN). The selected environmental factors are commonly encountered in wastewater treatment processes, where ammonia oxidizing bacteria play a pivotal role of converting ammonia into nitrite. All the factors could induce prophage from N. multiformis demonstrating that cell lysis due to prophage induction could be an important mechanism contributing to the frequent upset in ammonia oxidation efficiency in full scale treatment plants. Among the stress factors considered, pH in the acidic range was the most detrimental to the nitrification efficiency by N. multiformis. The number of virus like particles (VLPs) increased by 2.3E+10 at pH 5 in 5h under acidic pH conditions. The corresponding increases in VLPs at pH values of 7 and 8 were 9.67E+9 and 1.57E+10 in 5h respectively. Cell lysis due to stress resulting in phage induction seemed the primary reason for deteriorated ammonia oxidation by N. multiformis at lower concentrations of Cr (VI) and potassium cyanide. However, direct killing of N. multiformis due to the binding of Cr (VI) and potassium cyanide with cell protein as demonstrated in the literature at higher concentrations of these toxic compounds was the primary mechanism of cell lysis of N. multiformis. Organics represented by the chemical oxygen demand (COD) did not have any effect on the phage induction in N. multiformis. This AOB remained dormant at low temperature (4 degrees C) without any phage induction. Significant decrease in the number of live N. multiformis cells with a corresponding increase in the number of VLPs was recorded when the temperature was increased to 35 degrees C. Death of N. multiformis at 45 degrees C was attributed to the destruction of cell wall rather than to the phage induction.
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