Microcolony-forming bacteria closely related to the genus Aquaspirillum in the Betaproteobacteria were recently observed to be abundant in many nutrient removal wastewater treatment plants. The developed oligonucleotide probe, Aqs997, however, occasionally also targeted some filamentous bacteria in activated sludge samples when fluorescence in situ hybridization was performed. In this study, the identity, abundance, and ecophysiology of these Aqs997-positive filamentous bacteria were studied in detail. Most of the Aqs997-positive filamentous bacteria could morphologically be identified as either Eikelboom Type 1701, Type 0041/0675 or possibly Type 1851, all characterized by epiphytic growth. They were found in almost all 21 wastewater treatment plants investigated. Two morphotypes were found. Type A filaments, which seemed to be the same genotype as the microcolony-forming bacteria targeted by probe Aqs997.Type B filaments also hybridized with probe GNS941, specific for the Chloroflexi phylum, so the true identity remains unclear. Aqs997-positive filaments usually stained Gram-negative, but Gram-positive filaments were also found, stressing the difficulties in identifying bacteria from morphology and simple staining results. Studies on the ecophysiology by microautoradiography showed that Aqs997-positive filamentous bacteria did not consume acetate and glucose, while some took up butyrate, mannose, and certain amino acids. Most likely, some Aqs997-positive filamentous bacteria were able to perform full denitrification such as the Aqs997-positive microcolony-forming bacteria, and some were able to store polyhydroxyalkanoates under anaerobic conditions, potentially being glycogen accumulating organisms.

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