Isolation and characterization of Sphingomonadaceae from fouled membranes

Hendrik J. de Vries*, Florian Beyer, Monika Jarzembowska, Joanna Lipińska, Paula van den Brink, Arie Zwijnenburg, Peer H.A. Timmers, Alfons J.M. Stams, Caroline M. Plugge

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Membrane filtration systems are widely applied for the production of clean drinking water. However, the accumulation of particles on synthetic membranes leads to fouling. Biological fouling (i.e., biofouling) of reverse osmosis and nanofiltration membranes is difficult to control by existing cleaning procedures. Improved strategies are therefore needed. The bacterial diversity on fouled membranes has been studied, especially to identify bacteria with specialized functions and to develop targeted approaches against these microbes. Previous studies have shown that Sphingomonadaceae are initial membrane colonizers that remain dominant while the biofilm develops. Here, we characterized 21 Sphingomonadaceae isolates, obtained from six different fouled membranes, to determine which physiological traits could contribute to colonization of membrane surfaces. Their growth conditions ranged from temperatures between 8 and 42 oC, salinity between 0.0 and 5.0% w/v NaCl, pH from 4 and 10, and all isolates were able to metabolize a wide range of substrates. The results presented here show that Sphingomonadaceae membrane isolates share many features that are uncommon for other members of the Sphingomonadaceae family: all membrane isolates are motile and their tolerance for different temperatures, salt concentrations, and pH is high. Although relative abundance is an indicator of fitness for a whole group, for the Sphingomonadaceae it does not reveal the specific physiological traits that are required for membrane colonization. This study, therefore, adds to more fundamental insights in membrane biofouling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Journalnpj Biofilms and Microbiomes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2019


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