Assessment of Microbial Community Variability in Replicate Tubular Nitrifying Bioreactors using PCR and TRFLP Analysis
Bioregenerative life support systems (BLSS) may be necessary for long-term space missions due to the high costs of lifting supplies and equipment into orbit. Much of the recycling to be done in a BLSS involves microbial activity. Although most studies to date have used a culture-based approach to characterize bacteria in BLSS under development, recently work has begun utilizing non-culture-based, DNA approaches to elucidate which microbes are present. In this study, we investigated whether replicate reactors develop replicate microbial communities using a 16S rRNA gene approach and terminal restriction length polymorphism analysis for tubular, nitrifier reactors in use at JSC. Our result suggests that both individual reactor and temporal signals can be detected in the microbial populations. This information may lead to optimization of inoculation procedures and reactor operations conditions to increase predictability and reliability of biological systems.