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Integrated Genomics and Post-Genomics Approaches in Microbial Ecology

Multiple syntrophic interactions in a terephthalate-degrading methanogenic consortium


Terephthalate (TA) is one of the top 50 chemicals produced worldwide. Its production results in a TA-containing wastewater that is treated by anaerobic processes through a poorly understood methanogenic syntrophy. Using metagenomics, we characterized the methanogenic consortium inside a hyper-mesophilic (that is, between mesophilic and thermophilic), TA-degrading bioreactor. We identified genes belonging to dominant Pelotomaculum species presumably involved in TA degradation through decarboxylation, dearomatization, and modified β-oxidation to H2/CO2 and acetate. These intermediates are converted to CH4/CO2 by three novel hyper-mesophilic methanogens. Additional secondary syntrophic interactions were predicted in Thermotogae, Syntrophus and candidate phyla OP5 and WWE1 populations. The OP5 encodes genes capable of anaerobic autotrophic butyrate production and Thermotogae, Syntrophus and WWE1 have the genetic potential to oxidize butyrate to CO2/H2 and acetate. These observations suggest that the TA-degrading consortium consists of additional syntrophic interactions beyond the standard H2-producing syntroph–methanogen partnership that may serve to improve community stability.

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This work was performed under the auspices of the US Department of Energy's Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research Program, and by the University of California, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC52-07NA27344 and Los Alamos National Laboratory under contract No. DE-AC02-06NA25396.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Wen-Tso Liu.

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This paper was corrected on 21st December 2010 to include contributing authors inadvertently ommitted from the original version of the paper

Supplementary Information accompanies the paper on The ISME Journal website

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Lykidis, A., Chen, CL., Tringe, S. et al. Multiple syntrophic interactions in a terephthalate-degrading methanogenic consortium. ISME J 5, 122–130 (2011).

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  • metagenomics
  • methanogenesis
  • syntroph
  • microbial diversity
  • carbon cycling

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