High diversity and abundance of putative polyphosphate-accumulating Tetrasphaera-related bacteria in activated sludge systems

FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2011 May;76(2):256-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2011.01049.x. Epub 2011 Feb 14.


The diversity of the putative polyphosphate-accumulating genus Tetrasphaera in wastewater treatment systems with enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) was investigated using the full-cycle rRNA approach combined with microautoradiography and histochemical staining. 16S rRNA actinobacterial gene sequences were retrieved from different full-scale EBPR plants, and the sequences belonging to the genus Tetrasphaera (family Intrasporangiaceae) were found to form three clades. Quantitative FISH analyses of the communities in five full-scale EBPR plants using 10 new oligonucleotide probes were carried out. The results showed that the probe-defined Tetrasphaera displayed different morphologies and constituted up to 30% of the total biomass. It was shown that active uptake of orthophosphate and formation of polyphosphate took place in most of the probe-defined Tetrasphaera populations. However, aerobic uptake of orthophosphate only took place after uptake of certain carbon sources under anaerobic conditions and these were more diverse than hitherto assumed: amino acids, glucose, and for some also acetate. Tetrasphaera seemed to occupy a slightly different ecological niche compared with 'Candidatus Accumulibacter' contributing to a functional redundancy and stability of the EBPR process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / metabolism
  • Actinomycetales / genetics
  • Actinomycetales / growth & development*
  • Actinomycetales / metabolism
  • Biomass
  • Gene Library
  • Oligonucleotide Probes / genetics
  • Phosphorus / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Polyphosphates / metabolism*
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sewage / microbiology*


  • Acetates
  • Oligonucleotide Probes
  • Polyphosphates
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Sewage
  • Phosphorus