Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 99, Issue 23, pp 9883–9905 | Cite as

Role of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) production in bioaggregation: application to wastewater treatment

  • Zhiji DingEmail author
  • Isabelle Bourven
  • Gilles Guibaud
  • Eric D. van Hullebusch
  • Antonio Panico
  • Francesco Pirozzi
  • Giovanni Esposito


This paper reviews the formation, structure, and stability of bioaggregates with an emphasis on the composition and distribution of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and their role in bioaggregation. Bioaggregation is ubiquitous in natural environment and is of great importance in biological wastewater treatment processes. It greatly influences the flocculability, settleability, and dewaterability for flocs and sludge retention and shear resistance for biofilms. The physico-chemical and microbial structures of bioaggregates are dependent on operational conditions as well as microbial diversity and spatial distribution. The formation of bioaggregates is mediated by the physico-chemical interactions as well as the microbial interactions such as EPS production and quorum sensing. EPS are composed of a mixture of macromolecules including proteins, polysaccharides, humic-like substances, and nucleic acids, which entrap the microbial cells in a three-dimensional matrix. The composition and physico-chemical characteristics of EPS have significant influence on the maintenance of the bioaggregate structure and the process performance of the wastewater treatment. However, the mechanisms of bioaggregation are still unclear and the conclusions on the role of EPS were mostly drawn from the established correlations and hypotheses. This paper expects to provide up-to-date knowledge on bioaggregation and insights for further studies and applications.


EPS Granulation Flocculation Mechanism Protein Polysaccharide 



This research was carried out in the framework of the Project “Modular photo-biologic reactor for bio-hydrogen: application to dairy waste–RE-MIDA” by the Agriculture Department of the Campania Region in the context of the “Programme of Rural Development 2007-2013, Measure 124.” The authors would also like to acknowledge the Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate Programme ETeCoS3 (Environmental Technologies for Contaminated Solids, Soils and Sediments) under the EU grant agreement FPA No 2010-0009.

Compliance with ethical standards

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest, and the research involves neither human participants nor animal.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of Cassino and Southern LazioCassinoItaly
  2. 2.Groupement de Recherche Eau Sol EnvironnementUniversité de LimogesLimogesFrance
  3. 3.Laboratoire Géomatériaux et Environnement (EA 4508)Université Paris-EstParisFrance
  4. 4.Telematic University PegasoNaplesItaly
  5. 5.Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of Naples Federico IINaplesItaly

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