Summary: Hitherto, few environmental samples have been investigated by a ‘full cycle rRNA analysis’. Here the results of hybridization experiments with specific rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes developed on the basis of new sequences derived from a previously described comparative 16S rRNA analysis of nocardioform actinomycetes in activated sludge are reported. Application of the specific probes enabled identification and discrimination of the distinct populations of nocardioform actinomycetes in activated sludge. One of the specific probes (DLP) detected rod-shaped bacteria which were found in 13 of the 16 investigated sludge samples from various wastewater treatment plants, suggesting their importance in the wastewater treatment process. Another probe (GLP2) hybridized with typically branched filaments of nocardioforms mainly found in samples from enhanced biological phosphorus removal plants, suggesting that these bacteria are involved in sludge foaming. The combination of hybridization with fluorescently labelled rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes and confocal laser scanning microscopy improved the detection of nocardioform actinomycetes, which often showed only weak signals inside the activated-sludge flocs.


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