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N-acyl-homoserine-lactones signaling as a critical control point for phosphorus entrapment by multi-species microbial aggregates

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Thomas CurtisORCiD, Dr Jan DolfingORCiD


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© 2021 Elsevier Ltd. Quorum sensing (QS) has been extensively studied in pure stains of microorganisms, but the ecological roles of QS in multi-species microbial aggregates are poorly understood due to the aggregates’ heterogeneity and complexity, in particular the phosphorus (P) entrapment, a key aspect of element cycling. Using periphytic biofilm as a microbial-aggregate model, we addressed how QS signaling via N-acyl-homoserine-lactones (AHLs) regulated P entrapment. The most-abundant AHLs detected were C8-HSL, 3OC8-HSL, and C12-HSL, are the primary regulator of P entrapment in the periphytic biofilm. QS signaling-AHL is a beneficial molecule for bacterial growth in periphytic biofilm and the addition of these three AHLs optimized polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs) community. Growth promotion was accompanied by up-regulation of pyrimidine, purine and energy metabolism. Both intra- and extra-cellular P entrapment were enhanced in the addition of AHLs. AHLs increased extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) production to drive extracellular P entrapment, via up-regulating amino acids biosynthesis and amino sugar/nucleotide sugar metabolism. Also, AHLs improved intracellular P entrapment potential by regulating genes involved in inorganic-P accumulation (ppk, ppx) and P uptake and transport (pit, pstSCAB). This proof-of-concept evidence about how QS signaling regulates P entrapment by microbial aggregates paves the way for managing QS to enhance P removal by microbial aggregates in aquatic environments.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Xu Y, Curtis T, Dolfing J, Wu Y, Rittmann BE

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Water Research

Year: 2021

Volume: 204

Print publication date: 01/10/2021

Online publication date: 04/09/2021

Acceptance date: 27/08/2021

ISSN (print): 0043-1354

ISSN (electronic): 1879-2448

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2021.117627


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