Protein expression is a direct reflection of specific microbial activities in any ecosystem. In order to assess protein expression in mixed microbial communities, the feasibility of applying proteomic techniques to activated sludge samples has recently been demonstrated. We report the application of metaproteomics to two activated sludges from a laboratory-scale sequencing batch reactor with dissimilar phosphorus removal performances. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) revealed that the sludge with good enhanced biological phosphorus removal performance (EBPR) was dominated by Betaproteobacteria (65% of EUBMIX binding cells) and gave positive signals for the Rhodocyclus-type PAO specific probe (59%). The non-EBPR sludge was dominated by tetrad-forming Alphaproteobacteria (75%). With regard to the proteomic investigation, 630 individual protein spots were matched across the replicate groups of the anaerobic and aerobic phases of the EBPR sludge with 9.4% of all spots being statistically different between the two phases. The non-EBPR metaproteomic maps exhibited 590 matched spots with 14.7% statistical differences between the two phases. Overall, the non-EBPR sludge expressed around 30% more significant differences than the EBPR sludge. The comparison of protein expression in the two sludges showed that their metaproteomes were substantially different and this was reflected in their microbial community structures and metabolic transformations.

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