The biofilm community structure of a biofouled reverse osmosis (RO) membrane was examined using a polyphasic approach, and the dominant phylotypes retrieved were related to the order Rhizobiales, a group of bacteria that is hitherto not implicated in membrane biofouling. A comparison with two other membrane biofilms using T-RFLP fingerprinting also revealed the dominance of Rhizobiales organisms. When pure culture RO biofilm isolates were cultivated aerobically in BIOLOG microplates, most Rhizobiales were metabolically versatile in their choice of carbon substrates. Nitrate reduction was observed in five RO isolates related to Castellaniella, Ochrobactrum, Stenotrophomonas, and Xanthobacter. Many of the key Rhizobiales genera including Bosea, Uchrobactrum, Shinella, and Rhodopseudomonas were detected by PCR to contain the nirK gene responsible for nitrite reductase activity. These findings suggest that Rhizobiales organisms are ecologically significant in membrane biofilm communities under both aerobic and anoxic conditions and may be responsible for biofouling in membrane separation systems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry