Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Gary S. Sayler

Committee Members

Alison Buchan, Erik Zinser, Todd Reynolds, Jun Lin


Thauera aminoaromatica MZ1T is an exopolysaccharide (EPS)-producing Gram negative bacterium isolated from the wastewater treatment plant of a major industrial chemical manufacturer as the causal agent for poor sludge dewatering. It shares common features with other known Thauera spp. (i.e. Thauera aromatica, and Thauera selenatis), being capable of degrading aromatic compounds anaerobically and using acetate and succinate as carbon sources. It is unique among the Thauera spp. in its production of abundant EPS which results in viscous bulking and poor sludge dewaterability. In this respect, it is similar to Azoarcus sp. EbN1 and BH72. Thaueran is the proposed name for EPS produced by MZ1T for research purpose.

The focus of this research is to fully characterize the microorganism and identify and characterize the genes responsible for thaueran synthesis and export through bioinformatics, transposon mutagenesis, gene clone and expression, reverse transcriptase quantitative real time PCR, and genome sequencing and annotation. Ultimately, this knowledge will contribute to control of viscous bulking and sludge dewatering problems. However, a broader range of important environmental biotechnical processes may be forthcoming from understanding thaueran synthesis. They may include thaueran remedial solutions for heavy metal and radionuclide immobilization, anaerobic carbon channeling and sequestration, greenhouse gas mitigation through acetate incorporation into thaueran, and novel applications such as thaueran-mediated wound healing.

Sequencing of MZ1T genome has been accomplished through collaboration with the Joint Genome Institute (JGI). The genome size is 4.5 Mbp, GC content is 68.3%, and there are 4,092 protein coding genes. Three putative thaueran gene clusters were found within the genome. One tight cluster with a size of 20.67kb encoding 14 genes may contain most necessary genes for thaueran formation and export. Another two clusters are loosely organized. Through transposon mutagenesis, mutants not producing abundant thaueran and not flocculating have been obtained and verified, and were further used in reverse transcriptase quantitative real time PCR to compare the differential expression levels of the presumable EPS genes among mutants, wild type MZ1T and under different growth conditions. The results indicated a correlation of the expression level of the test genes and the abundance of EPS.

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