Using Microbial Aggregates to Entrap Aqueous Phosphorus

Ying Xu, Yonghong Wu*, Sofia Esquivel-Elizondo, Jan Dolfing, Bruce E. Rittmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


The increasing use and associated loss of phosphorus to the environment pose risks to aquatic ecosystems. Technology for phosphorus removal based on microbial aggregates is a natural, ecologically widespread, and sustainable reclamation strategy. Two main processes dominate phosphorus removal by microbial aggregates: extra- and intra-cellular entrapment. Extracellular phosphorus entrapment relies on extracellular polymeric substances, while intracellular entrapment uses a wider variety of phosphorus-entrapping mechanisms. In microbial aggregates, microalgae–bacteria interactions, quorum sensing, and acclimation can enhance phosphorus removal. Based on these insights, we propose novel avenues for entrapping phosphorus using ecological and genetic engineering, manipulated interactions, and integrated processes to create phosphorus removal technology mediated by microbial aggregates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1292-1303
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Biotechnology
Issue number11
Early online date16 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


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