The microbial diversity of a deteriorated biological phosphorus removal reactor was investigated by methods not requiring direct cultivation. The reactor was fed with media containing acetate and high levels of phosphate (P/C weight ratio, 8:100) but failed to completely remove phosphate in the effluent and showed very limited biological phosphorus removal activity. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of PCR-amplified 16S ribosomal DNA was used to investigate the bacterial diversity. Up to 11 DGGE bands representing at least 11 different sequence types were observed; DNA from the 6 most dominant of these bands was further isolated and sequenced. Comparative phylogenetic analysis of the partial 16S rRNA sequences suggested that one sequence type was affiliated with the alpha subclass of the
Proteobacteria, one was associated with the Legionellagroup of the gamma subclass of the Proteobacteria, and the remaining four formed a novel group of the gamma subclass of the Proteobacteriawith no close relationship to any previously described species. The novel group represented approximately 75% of the PCR-amplified DNA, based on the DGGE band intensities. Two oligonucleotide rRNA probes for this novel group were designed and used in a whole-cell hybridization analysis to investigate the abundance of this novel group in situ. The bacteria were coccoid and 3 to 4 μm in diameter and represented approximately 35% of the total population, suggesting a relatively close agreement with the results obtained by the PCR-based DGGE method. Further, based on electron microscopy and standard staining microscopic analysis, this novel group was able to accumulate granule inclusions, possibly consisting of polyhydroxyalkanoate, inside the cells.