The study investigated the effect of high substrate loading on substrate utilization kinetics, and changes inflicted on the composition of the microbial community in a superfast submerged membrane bioreactor. Submerged MBR was sequentially fed with a substrate mixture and acetate; its performance was monitored at steady-state, at extremely low sludge age values of 2.0, 1.0 and 0.5 d, all adjusted to a single hydraulic retention time of 8.0 h. Each MBR run was repeated when substrate feeding was increased from 200 mg COD/L to 1000 mg COD/L. Substrate utilization kinetics was altered to significantly lower levels when the MBR was adjusted to higher substrate loadings. Molecular analysis of the biomass revealed that variable process kinetics could be correlated with parallel changes in the composition of the microbial community, mainly by a replacement mechanism, where newer species, better adapted to the new growth conditions, substituted others that are washed out from the system. (c) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.