Application of a Novel Functional Gene Microarray to Probe the Functional Ecology of Ammonia Oxidation in Nitrifying Activated Sludge

Michael D. Short, Guy C.J. Abell, Levente Bodrossy, Ben van den Akker

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We report on the first study trialling a newly-developed, functional gene microarray (FGA) for characterising bacterial and archaeal ammonia oxidisers in activated sludge. Mixed liquor (ML) and media biofilm samples from a full-scale integrated fixed-film activated sludge (IFAS) plant were analysed with the FGA to profile the diversity and relative abundance of ammonia-oxidising archaea and bacteria (AOA and AOB respectively). FGA analyses of AOA and AOB communities revealed ubiquitous distribution of AOA across all samples - an important finding for these newly-discovered and poorly characterised organisms. Results also revealed striking differences in the functional ecology of attached versus suspended communities within the IFAS reactor. Quantitative assessment of AOB and AOA functional gene abundance revealed a dominance of AOB in the ML and approximately equal distribution of AOA and AOB in the media-attached biofilm. Subsequent correlations of functional gene abundance data with key water quality parameters suggested an important functional role for media-attached AOB in particular for IFAS reactor nitrification performance and indicate possible functional redundancy in some IFAS ammonia oxidiser communities. Results from this investigation demonstrate the capacity of the FGA to resolve subtle ecological shifts in key microbial communities in nitrifying activated sludge and indicate its value as a tool for better understanding the linkages between the ecology and performance of these engineered systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere77139
Number of pages11
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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