In petrochemical refinery wastewater treatment plants (WWTP), different concentrations of pollutant compounds are received daily in the influent stream, including significant amounts of phenolic compounds, creating propitious conditions for the development of particular microorganisms that can rapidly adapt to such environment. In the present work, the microbial sludge from a refinery WWTP was enriched for phenol, cloned into fosmid vectors and pyrosequenced. The fosmid libraries yielded 13,200 clones and a comprehensive bioinformatic analysis of the sequence data set revealed a complex and diverse bacterial community in the phenol degrading sludge. The phylogenetic analyses using MEGAN in combination with RDP classifier showed a massive predominance of Proteobacteria, represented mostly by the genera Diaphorobacter, Pseudomonas, Thauera and Comamonas. The functional classification of phenol degrading sludge sequence data set generated by MG-RAST showed the wide metabolic diversity of the microbial sludge, with a high percentage of genes involved in the aerobic and anaerobic degradation of phenol and derivatives. In addition, genes related to the metabolism of many other organic and xenobiotic compounds, such as toluene, biphenyl, naphthalene and benzoate, were found. Results gathered herein demonstrated that the phenol degrading sludge has complex phylogenetic and functional diversities, showing the potential of such community to degrade several pollutant compounds. This microbiota is likely to represent a rich resource of versatile and unknown enzymes which may be exploited for biotechnological processes such as bioremediation.
Keywords: Membrane bioreactor, Fosmid library, Pyrosequencing, Microbial diversity, Metabolic profile