Elucidating the symbiotic interactions between a locally isolated microalga Chlorella vulgaris and its co-occurring bacterium Rhizobium sp. in synthetic municipal wastewater
J Appl Phycol 2019, 31(4): 2299-2310
Ferro L, Colombo M, Posadas E, Funk C, Muñoz R

Co-cultivation of microalgae and bacteria during municipal wastewater treatment can boost carbon and nutrient recovery as a result of their synergistic interactions. The symbiotic relationships between the locally isolated microalga Chlorella vulgaris and the bacterium Rhizobium sp., co-isolated from municipal wastewater, were investigated batchwise under photoautotrophic, heterotrophic, and mixotrophic conditions in a synthetic municipal wastewater medium. During photoautotrophic growth in BG11 medium, photosynthetic algal oxygenation and organic carbon production supported bacterial activity but no significant beneficial effects on microalgal growth were observed. In synthetic wastewater, a twofold higher biomass concentration was achieved in the axenic algal culture compared with the co-culture under heterotrophic conditions, suggesting a competition for nutrients. A comparable carbon removal was observed in all cultures (83–79% TOC), but a faster nitrogen consumption (59% TN) and complete phosphate assimilation (100% TP) was only achieved in the co-culture. A positive synergistic relationship was found under mixotrophic conditions, clearly supported by an in situ O2/CO2 exchange between the microorganisms. This mutualism led to a threefold higher biomass production with a 13-fold higher fatty acid content compared with the axenic algal culture, as well as a superior wastewater treatment performance (+ 58% TOC, + 41% TN and + 44% TP). The co-cultivation of C. vulgaris and Rhizobium is therefore suggested as a potential microbial consortium for a cost-efficient biomass generation during municipal wastewater reclamation, especially under mixotrophic conditions.

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