Linkages between microbial functional potential and wastewater constituents in large-scale membrane bioreactors for municipal wastewater treatment

Yanmei Sun, Yue xiao Shen, Peng Liang, Jizhong Zhou, Yunfeng Yang, Xia Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Scopus citations


Large-scale membrane bioreactors (MBRs) have been widely used for the municipal wastewater treatment, whose performance relies on microbial communities of activated sludge. Nevertheless, microbial functional structures in MBRs remain little understood. To gain insight into functional genes and their steering environmental factors, we adopted GeoChip, a high-throughput microarray-based tool, to examine microbial genes in four large-scale, in-operation MBRs located in Beijing, China. The results revealed substantial microbial gene heterogeneity (43.7-85.1% overlaps) among different MBRs. Mantel tests indicated that microbial nutrient cycling genes were significantly (P<0.05) correlated to influent COD, NH4+-N, TP or sulfate, which signified the importance of microbial mediation of wastewater constituent removal. In addition, functional genes shared by all four MBRs contained a large number of genes involved in antibiotics resistance, metal resistance and organic remediation, suggesting that they were required for degradation or resistance to toxic compounds in wastewater. The linkages between microbial functional structures and environmental variables were also unveiled by the finding of hydraulic retention time, influent COD, NH4+-N, mixed liquid temperature and humic substances as major factors shaping microbial communities. Together, the results presented demonstrate the utility of GeoChip-based microarray approach in examining microbial communities of wastewater treatment plants and provide insights into the forces driving important processes of element cycling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-171
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014



  • Functional genes
  • GeoChip
  • Membrane bioreactor
  • Municipal wastewater

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