Diversity of ribosomal 16S DNA- and RNA-based bacterial community in an office building drinking water system

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


  • J. Inkinen
  • B. Jayaprakash
  • J. W. Santo Domingo
  • M. M. Keinänen-Toivola
  • H. Ryu
  • T. Pitkänen

Research units

  • National Institute for Health and Welfare
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • Satakunta University of Applied Sciences


Aims: Next-generation sequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA genes (rDNA) and ribosomal RNA (rRNA) was used to characterize water and biofilm microbiome collected from a drinking water distribution system of an office building after its first year of operation. Methods and Results: The total bacterial community (rDNA) and active bacterial members (rRNA) sequencing databases were generated by Illumina MiSeq PE250 platform. As estimated by Chao1 index, species richness in cold water system was lower (180-260) in biofilms (Sphingomonas spp., Methylobacterium spp., Limnohabitans spp., Rhizobiales order) than in waters (250-580), (also Methylotenera spp.) (P = 0·005, n = 20). Similarly species richness (Chao1) was slightly higher (210-580) in rDNA libraries compared to rRNA libraries (150-400; P = 0·054, n = 24). Active Mycobacterium spp. was found in cross-linked polyethylene (PEX), but not in corresponding copper pipeline biofilm. Nonpathogenic Legionella spp. was found in rDNA libraries but not in rRNA libraries. Conclusions: Microbial communities differed between water and biofilms, between cold and hot water systems, locations in the building and between water rRNA and rDNA libraries, as shown by clear clusters in principal component analysis (PcoA). By using the rRNA method, we found that not all bacterial community members were active (e.g. Legionella spp.), whereas other members showed increased activity in some locations; for example, Pseudomonas spp. in hot water circulations' biofilm and order Rhizobiales and Limnohabitans spp. in stagnated locations' water and biofilm. Significance and Impact of the Study: rRNA-based methods may be better than rDNA-based methods for evaluating human health implications as rRNA methods can be used to describe the active bacterial fraction. This study indicates that copper as a pipeline material might have an adverse impact on the occurrence of Mycobacterium spp. The activity of Legionella spp. maybe questionable when detected solely by using DNA-based methods.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1723–1738
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • Biofilms, Drinking water, Microbial community, Next-generation sequencing, Pipeline network

ID: 3350291