Candidatus Accumulibacter Phosphatis

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Flourescence In-Situ Hybridization image of A. Phosphatis (Blackall, 2002). From].


Kingdom: Bacteria Phylum: Proteobacteria

Class: Betaproteobacteria

Order: unclassified Betaproteobacteria

Family: Candidatus Accumulibacter Flourescence In-Situ Hybridization image of A. Phosphatis.


Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis

NCBI Taxonomy ID: 522306

Description and Significance

Describe the appearance, habitat, etc. of the organism, and why you think it is important.

Candidatus Accumulibacter Phosphatis (A. Phosphatis) is of the group of organisms know as polyphosphate-accumulating organisms (PAO). This organism is a key species used in waste water treatment for the purpose of enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR)(Lu). Waste water effluent can be a major contributor of phosphorous pollution to the environment, which can cause excess nutrient loading that leads to algal blooms. Traditional methods of phosphorous removal include chemical removal process and EBPR. Advantages of operating a waste water treatment plant with EBPR are that it significantly lowers operating costs, reduces sludge production and enables sludege to be reused easier, and eliminates chemical biproducts (Blackall, 2002). A. Phosphatis has been found in 4-18% of plants treating domestic sewage (Fukushima, 2007).

Genome Structure

Map of Candidatus Accumulibacter Phosphates Clade IIA Chromosome.jpgMap of Candidatus Accumulibacter Phosphates Clade IIA Chromosome

Describe the size and content of the genome. How many chromosomes? Circular or linear? Other interesting features? What is known about its sequence?

Accumulibacter spp. has as many as eleven lineages so far discovered in full scale waste water treatment plant bioreactors around the world (Peterson, 2008). It is suspected that differences between lineages are due to competitive advantage in didderent environemtnal condiditons (Peterson, 2008).

The A. Phosphatis Genome consists of one circular chromosome and three plasmids.

The size of this genome is 5306133 base pairs, coding for 4790 genes. 3.82% of the "Accumulibacter phosphatis" genome is unlike all other organisms in relation to both sequence similarity and function.

The A. Phosphatis clade IIA str. UW-1; was mapped by the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) in 2004 with an isolate collected from an EBPR wastewater treatment bioreactor in Madison, WI.

Oligonucleotide probes which can help detect DNA and RNA sequences specific to A. Phosphatis have been developed. This has allowed for studies of A. Phosphatis using florescent in situ hybridization and polymerase chain reactions (PCR) (Blackall, 2002).

Cell Structure, Metabolism and Life Cycle

Interesting features of cell structure; how it gains energy; what important molecules it produces.

Cell Structure

A. Phosphatis is a gram negative, rod shaped organism


A. Phosphatis is a chemoheterotroph and can exist in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. This organism has an interesting metabolism, adapted for survival in both aerobic and anaerobic environments. It cycles molecules for energy generation or storage depending on the environmental conditions present. A. Phosphatis is an acetate oxcidizer.

Aerobic Conditions

Anabolic Pathway: Under aerobic conditions A. Phosphatis uptakes orthophosphate from the environment and transforms it to polyphosphate, an energy rich phosphate chain. Polyphosphates are stored until conditions change from aerobic to anaerobic. A. Phosphatis also stores glycogen in a similar manner to polyphosphate (Zhoua 2009).

Catabolic Pathway: Poly-B-hydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), stored during anaerobic conditions, are reduced to Volatile Fatty Acids (VFAs) to produce energy for growth.

Anaerobic Conditions

Anabolic Pathway: Under anaerobic conditions A. Phosphatis uptakes VFAs and stores the carbon in the cell in PHAs.

Catabolic Pathway: Polyphosphate, stored during aerobic conditions, is reduced to orthophosphate for the purpose of energy generation. The orthophosphate is released into the environment (Pijuan 2003). Another pathway exists through the reduction of glycogen by glycolysis. This process produces ATP and reducing equivalents (NADH) (Blackall, 2002).

Ecology and Pathogenesis

Habitat; symbiosis; biogeochemical significance; contributions to environment. If relevant, how does this organism cause disease? Human, animal, plant hosts? Virulence factors, as well as patient symptoms

Industrial Habitat: A. Phosphatis inhabits sediment and sludge. It is seeded in industrail wastewater treatment bioreactors for the purpose of accumulating phosphorouess in the EBPR processs. The EBPR process involves using bacteria to accumulate phosphorous in their cells so that it can be easily separated from waste water. The bacteria accumulate in a layer of solids in the bottom of the waste water treatment bioreactors called the sludge layer. Once an initial culture of A. Phosphatis is sucessfull developed in wastewater sludge layers, small amounts of the sludge is put back into the beginning of the system, or mixed with the anaerobic environment of incoming wastewater, in order to 'seed' a new culture of phosphate removing microbes. The microbes will reproduce, consume and concentrate phosphorous in their biomass, and accumulate in the aerobic sludge layer. At this point, the process begins again.

Enhanced Biological Phosphorous Removal.JPG

Layout of an Enhanced Biological Removal Process showing how aerobic sludge in mixed with incomming wastewater (Blackall, 2002)

Natural Habitat: A. Phosphatis was recently found in estuary and frest water sediments (Peterson, 2008). Survey of freshwater, terrestrial, and estuary soil samples with PCR indicated presence of Accumulibacter Additional Evidence for environmental reservoir dispersion is that sequencing of two bioreactors abundant with Accumulibacter on separate continents yielded >95% sequence identity over 79% of the assembled genome (Peterson, 2008). This species has numerous species that could give it competitive advantage in oligotrophic environemnts (Peterson, 2008).

Biogeochemical Significance: A. Phosphatis is a type of polyphasphate accumulating organism (PAO). PAOs are able to accumulate large amounts of phosphorus in the anaerobic zones of waste water treatment sludge. Sludge that was formed with the help of PAOs measures 4-5% phosphorous content by dry weight; this is in contrast to 1.5-2% phosphorous content by dry weight in the absence of PAOs (Blackall, 2002).

Interaction With Other Microbes: A. Phosphatis competes for resources with glycogen-accumulating organisms (GAO) because they both thrive on the same carbon source- acetate (Schroeder, 2008). This is undesirable in wastewater treatment processes because GAOs do not provide the favorable phosphate removing processes that PAOs do. Attempts have been made to give A. Phosphatis a competitive advantage over GAOs by supplementation of a different carbon source, but no successful results have been yielded so far (Schroeder, 2008). The sludge layers that commonly contain A. Phosphatis also have communities of actinobacteria, gammaproteobacteria, and other species of betaproteobacteria (Blackall, 2002).


Blackall L., Crocetti G. Saunders A., and Bond P. "A review and update of the microbiology of enhanced biological phosphorus removal in wastewater treatment plants ". Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. 2002. Volume 81. p. 681-691.

Fukushima T., Uda N., Okamoto M., Onuki M., Satoh H., and Mino T. "Abundance of Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis in Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal Activated Sludge Acclimatized with Different Carbon Sources". Microbes and Environments. 2007. Volume 22. p. 346-354.

Levantesi C., Serafim L., Crocetti G., Lemos P., Rossetti S., Blackall L., Reis M., and Tandoi V. "Analysis of the microbial community structure and function of a laboratory scale enhanced biological phosphorus removal reactor". Environmental Microbiology. 2002. Volume 4. p. 559-569.

Peterson B., Warnecke F., Madejska J., McMahon K., Hugenholtz P. "Environmental distribution and population biology of Candidatus Accumulibacter, a primary agent of Biological Phosphorus Removal". Environmental Microbiology. 2008. Volume 10(10). p 2692–2703.

Pijuan M., Saunders M., Guisasola A., Baeza J., Casas C., and Blackall L. "Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal in a Sequencing Batch Reactor Using Propionate as the Sole Carbon Source". Biotechnology and Bioengineering. 2003. Volume 85. p 56-67.

Schroeder S, Ahn J, Seviour RJ.,"Ecophysiology of polyphosphate-accumulating organisms and glycogen-accumulating organisms in a continuously aerated enhanced biological phosphorus removal process." Journal of Applied Microbiology. 2008 Volume 105(5). p 1412-20.

Zhoua Y., Pijuana M., Zenga R., and Yuan Z. "Involvement of the TCA cycle in the anaerobic metabolism of polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs)". Water Research. 2009. Volume 43. p 1330-1340.


Page authored by Johanna Kinsler and Kevin Koryto, students of Prof. Jay Lennon at Michigan State University.