Applications of biofilms in bioremediation and biotransformation of persistent organic pollutants, pharmaceuticals/personal care products, and heavy metals
Induction of denitrification was investigated for a lab-scale phosphate removing biofilm reactor where oxygen was replaced with nitrate as the electron acceptor. Acetate was used as the carbon source. The original biofilm (acclimatised with oxygen) was taken from a well-established large-scale reactor. During the first run, a decrease in the denitrifying bio-P activity was observed after 1 month following a change in the anaerobic phase length. This was initially interpreted as a shift in the microbial population caused by the changed operation. In the second run, biomass samples were regularly collected and analysed by fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH) and confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). Concurrently, samples were taken from the original reactor with oxygen as electron acceptor in order to investigate natural microbial fluctuations. A similar decrease in the activity as in the first run was seen after one month, although the phase lengths had not been varied. Hence, the decrease after 1 month in the first and second run should be seen as a start-up phenomenon. FISH could detect a noticeable shift in the microbial population mainly within the first 2 weeks of operation. Almost all bacteria belonging to the alpha subclass disappeared and characteristic clusters of the beta and gamma subclasses were lost. Small clusters of gram-positive bacteria with a high DNA G + C content (GPBHGC) were gradually replaced by filamentous GPBHGC. Most of the bacteria in the denitrifying, phosphate removing biofilm belonged to the beta subclass of Proteobacteria. The applied set of gene probes had been selected based on existing literature on biological phosphate removing organisms and included a recently published probe for a Rhodocyclus-like clone. However, none of the specific probes hybridised to the dominant bacterial groups in the reactors investigated. No noticeable changes were detected in the aerobic bench-scale reactor during this period, indicating that the observed changes in the lab-scale reactor were caused by the changed environment.