Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 77, Issue 1, pp 167–173 | Cite as

Polyphosphate kinase genes from full-scale activated sludge plants

  • Katherine D. McMahon
  • Suzan Yilmaz
  • Shaomei He
  • Daniel L. Gall
  • David Jenkins
  • Jay D. Keasling
Environmental Biotechnology


The performance of enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) wastewater treatment processes depends on the presence of bacteria that accumulate large quantities of polyphosphate. One such group of bacteria has been identified and named Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis. Accumulibacter-like bacteria are abundant in many EBPR plants, but not much is known about their community or population ecology. In this study, we used the polyphosphate kinase gene (ppk1) as a high-resolution genetic marker to study population structure in activated sludge. Ppk1 genes were amplified from samples collected from full-scale wastewater treatment plants of different configurations. Clone libraries were constructed using primers targeting highly conserved regions of ppk1, to retrieve these genes from activated sludge plants that did, and did not, perform EBPR. Comparative sequence analysis revealed that ppk1 fragments were retrieved from organisms affiliated with the Accumulibacter cluster from EBPR plants but not from a plant that did not perform EBPR. A new set of more specific primers was designed and validated to amplify a 1,100 bp ppk1 fragment from Accumulibacter-like bacteria. Our results suggest that the Accumulibacter cluster has finer-scale architecture than previously revealed by 16S ribosomal RNA-based analyses.


Enhanced biological phosphorus removal Activated sludge Rhodocyclus Accumulibacter phosphatis Polyphosphate kinase 



The authors wish to thank Philip Hugenholtz, Hector Garcia Martin, Victor Kunin, Jason Flowers, and Daniel Noguera for helpful discussions. This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grants BES-9912472 and BES-0332181 to DJ and JDK, and by BES-0332136 to KDM.

Supplementary material

253_2007_1122_MOESM1_ESM.doc (784 kb)
ESM Polyphosphate kinase genes from full-scale activated sludge plants (DOC 802 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine D. McMahon
    • 1
  • Suzan Yilmaz
    • 2
  • Shaomei He
    • 1
  • Daniel L. Gall
    • 1
  • David Jenkins
    • 2
  • Jay D. Keasling
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of Wisconsin–MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of California at BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of California at BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  4. 4.Department of BioengineeringUniversity of California at BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  5. 5.Physical Biosciences DivisionLawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryBerkeleyUSA

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