Adaptations in bacterial catabolic enzyme activity and community structure in membrane-coupled bioreactors fed simple synthetic wastewater

Timothy M LaPara, Christian G. Klatt, Ruoyu Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Membrane-coupled bioreactors (MBRs) offer substantial benefits compared to conventional reactor designs for biological wastewater treatment. MBR treatment efficiency, however, has not been optimized because the effects of the MBR on process microbiology are poorly understood. In this study, the structure and function of the microbial communities growing in MBRs fed simple synthetic wastewater were investigated. In four starch-fed MBRs, the bacterial community substantially increased its α-glucosidase affinity (>1000-fold), while the leucine aminopeptidase and heptanoate esterase affinities increased slightly (<40-fold) or remained relatively constant. Concomitant to these physiological adaptations, shifts in the bacterial community structure in two of the starch-fed MBRs were detected by PCR-DGGE. Four of the bacterial populations detected by PCR-DGGE were isolated and exhibited specific growth rates in batch culture ranging from 0.009 to 0.22 h-1. Our results suggest that bacterial communities growing under increasingly stringent nutrient limitation adapt their enzyme activities primarily for the nutrients provided, but that there is also a more subtle response not linked to the substrates included in the feed medium. Our research also demonstrates that MBRs can support relatively complex bacterial communities even on simple feed media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)368-380
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biotechnology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 10 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded in part by a grant from Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program of the University of Minnesota to C.G.K. We thank Li Zhang for technical assistance with the capillary electrophoresis analysis.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Enzyme activity
  • Membrane bioreactors
  • Nutrient limitation

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