Microbial origin of bioflocculation components within a promising natural bioflocculant resource of Ruditapes philippinarum conglutination mud from an aquaculture farm in Zhoushan, China

Ruditapes philippinarum conglutination mud (RPM) is a byproduct from the aquiculture of an important commercially bivalve mollusk R. philippinarum and has been recently reported as a promising natural bioflocculant resource. However the origin of bioflocculation components within RPM is still a pending doubt and impedes its effective exploitation. This study investigated the probability that RPM bioflocculation components originate from its associated microbes. RPM samples from an aquaculture farm in Zhoushan of China were applied to characterize its microbial community structure, screen associated bioflocculant-producing strains, and explore the homology between extracellular polysaccharides (EPS) from bioflocculant-producing isolates and RPM flocculation components. Results showed that RPM exhibited high bacterial biodiversity, with Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Actinobacteria as the most abundant phyla; hgcI_clade, CL500_29_marine_group, Fusibacter, MWH_UniP1_aquatic_group and Arcobacter as the dominant genera. Fourteen highly efficient bioflocculant-producing strains were screened and phylogenetically identified as Pseudoalteromonas sp. (5), Psychrobacter sp. (3), Halomonas sp. (2), Albirhodobacter sp. (1), Celeribacter sp. (1), Kocuria sp. (1) and Bacillus sp. (1), all of which except Bacillus sp. were reported for the first time for their excellent flocculation capability. Furthermore, EPS from the bioflocculant-producing strains exhibited highly similar monosaccharide composition to the reported flocculation-effective RPM polysaccharides. On the other hand, the existence of fungi in RPM was rare and showed no flocculation functionality. Findings from Zhoushan RPM strongly supported that RPM flocculation components were of bacterial origin and make RPM reproduction possible by fermentation approach.