Membrane biofilm communities in full-scale membrane bioreactors are not randomly assembled and consist of a core microbiome

Gerald Matar, Samik Bagchi, Kai Zhang, Daniel B. Oerther, Pascal Saikaly

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67 Scopus citations


Finding efficient biofouling control strategies requires a better understanding of the microbial ecology of membrane biofilm communities in membrane bioreactors (MBRs). Studies that characterized the membrane biofilm communities in lab-and pilot-scale MBRs are numerous, yet similar studies in full-scale MBRs are limited. Also, most of these studies have characterized the mature biofilm communities with very few studies addressing early biofilm communities. In this study, five full-scale MBRs located in Seattle (Washington, U.S.A.) were selected to address two questions concerning membrane biofilm communities (early and mature): (i) Is the assembly of biofilm communities (early and mature) the result of random immigration of species from the source community (i.e. activated sludge)? and (ii) Is there a core membrane biofilm community in full-scale MBRs? Membrane biofilm (early and mature) and activated sludge (AS) samples were collected from the five MBRs, and 16S rRNA gene sequencing was applied to investigate the bacterial communities of AS and membrane biofilms (early and mature). Alpha and beta diversity measures revealed clear differences in the bacterial community structure between the AS and biofilm (early and mature) samples in the five full-scale MBRs. These differences were mainly due to the presence of large number of unique but rare operational taxonomic units (∼13% of total reads in each MBR) in each sample. In contrast, a high percentage (∼87% of total reads in each MBR) of sequence reads was shared between AS and biofilm samples in each MBR, and these shared sequence reads mainly belong to the dominant taxa in these samples. Despite the large fraction of shared sequence reads between AS and biofilm samples, simulated biofilm communities from random sampling of the respective AS community revealed that biofilm communities differed significantly from the random assemblages (P 
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-133
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Jun 21 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: This work was sponsored by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). We thank Prof. Regina Lamendella for NMDS analysis (Fig. 4).


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