Archaeal nitrification is constrained by copper complexation with organic matter in municipal wastewater treatment plants

Joo Han Gwak, Man Young Jung, Heeji Hong, Jong Geol Kim, Zhe Xue Quan, John R. Reinfelder, Emilie Spasov, Josh D. Neufeld, Michael Wagner, Sung Keun Rhee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Consistent with the observation that ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) outnumber ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) in many eutrophic ecosystems globally, AOB typically dominate activated sludge aeration basins from municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). In this study, we demonstrate that the growth of AOA strains inoculated into sterile-filtered wastewater was inhibited significantly, in contrast to uninhibited growth of a reference AOB strain. In order to identify possible mechanisms underlying AOA-specific inhibition, we show that complex mixtures of organic compounds, such as yeast extract, were highly inhibitory to all AOA strains but not to the AOB strain. By testing individual organic compounds, we reveal strong inhibitory effects of organic compounds with high metal complexation potentials implying that the inhibitory mechanism for AOA can be explained by the reduced bioavailability of an essential metal. Our results further demonstrate that the inhibitory effect on AOA can be alleviated by copper supplementation, which we observed for pure AOA cultures in a defined medium and for AOA inoculated into nitrifying sludge. Our study offers a novel mechanistic explanation for the relatively low abundance of AOA in most WWTPs and provides a basis for modulating the composition of nitrifying communities in both engineered systems and naturally occurring environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-346
Number of pages12
JournalISME Journal
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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    Gwak, J. H., Jung, M. Y., Hong, H., Kim, J. G., Quan, Z. X., Reinfelder, J. R., Spasov, E., Neufeld, J. D., Wagner, M., & Rhee, S. K. (2020). Archaeal nitrification is constrained by copper complexation with organic matter in municipal wastewater treatment plants. ISME Journal, 14(2), 335-346. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41396-019-0538-1