Genetic Blueprints for Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal (EBPR) Based on Environmental Shotgun Sequencing

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The EBPR process is widely used throughout the world to sequester phosphate during wastewater treatment with activated sludge. It is a biochemically complex process, involving the cycling of at least three biopolymers (polyphosphate, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), and glycogen) as the microbes present in the sludge are exposed alternately to anaerobic and aerobic conditions (Blackall et al. 2002). The biphasic nature of the process is thought to be key to both the microbial ecology and metabolism of EBPR organisms. The dominant organism that is repeatedly enriched in lab-scale acetate-fed EBPR sequencing batch reactors (SBR) was recently identified as a member of the Betaproteobacteria in the Rhodocyclus group, and was named Accumulibacter phosphatis (Hesselmann et al. 1999; Crocetti et al. 2000). No pure culture of this organism is yet available, though powerful culture-independent molecular techniques are providing much of the essential information that historically could only be obtained using pure cultures (McMahon et al. 2002). Here we report on another significant advance in the quest to understand the genetic and
biochemical basis for EBPR: the sequencing of the EBPR metagenome.

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