Metagenomic and metaproteomic analyses of Accumulibacter phosphatis-enriched floccular and granular biofilm

Environ Microbiol. 2016 Jan;18(1):273-87. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.13019. Epub 2015 Oct 21.


Biofilms are ubiquitous in nature, forming diverse adherent microbial communities that perform a plethora of functions. Here we operated two laboratory-scale sequencing batch reactors enriched with Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis (Accumulibacter) performing enhanced biological phosphorus removal. Reactors formed two distinct biofilms, one floccular biofilm, consisting of small, loose, microbial aggregates, and one granular biofilm, forming larger, dense, spherical aggregates. Using metagenomic and metaproteomic methods, we investigated the proteomic differences between these two biofilm communities, identifying a total of 2022 unique proteins. To understand biofilm differences, we compared protein abundances that were statistically enriched in both biofilm states. Floccular biofilms were enriched with pathogenic secretion systems suggesting a highly competitive microbial community. Comparatively, granular biofilms revealed a high-stress environment with evidence of nutrient starvation, phage predation pressure, and increased extracellular polymeric substance and cell lysis. Granular biofilms were enriched in outer membrane transport proteins to scavenge the extracellular milieu for amino acids and other metabolites, likely released through cell lysis, to supplement metabolic pathways. This study provides the first detailed proteomic comparison between Accumulibacter-enriched floccular and granular biofilm communities, proposes a conceptual model for the granule biofilm, and offers novel insights into granule biofilm formation and stability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Betaproteobacteria / genetics*
  • Betaproteobacteria / metabolism*
  • Biofilms*
  • Bioreactors / microbiology*
  • Metagenomics / methods
  • Phosphorus / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Proteomics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sewage / microbiology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Sewage
  • Phosphorus