Linking Community Profiles, Gene Expression and N-Removal in Anammox Bioreactors Treating Municipal Anaerobic Digestion Reject Water

Anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) requires 60% less oxygen and no external organic carbon compared to conventional biological nitrogen removal (BNR). Nevertheless, full-scale installations of anammox are uncommon, primarily owing to the lack of well-established process monitoring and control strategies that result in stable anammox reactor performance. The overarching goal of this study was to develop and apply molecular biomarkers that link microbial community structure and activity to anammox process performance in a bioreactor fed with actual anaerobic digestion centrate from a full-scale operational wastewater treatment facility. Over long-term operation, <i>Candidatus</i> “Brocadia sp. 40” emerged as the dominant anammox population present in the reactor. There was good correspondence between reactor nitrogen removal performance and anammox bacterial concentrations. During the period of reactor operation, there was also a marked shift in biomass morphology from discrete cells to granular aggregates, which was paralleled by a shift also to more stable nitrogen removal and the succession and establishment of bacteria related to the Chlorobi/Bacteroidetes superfamily. Based on batch assays, hydrazine oxidoreductase (<i>hzo</i>) expression and concentrations of the 16S−23S rRNA intergenic spacer region (ISR) were good quantitative biomarkers of oxygen- and nitrite-mediated inhibition. When applied to a continuous anammox reactor, both molecular biomarkers show promise as monitoring tools for “predicting” reactor performance.