The role of benzoate in anaerobic degradation of terephthalate

Appl Environ Microbiol. 1999 Mar;65(3):1161-7. doi: 10.1128/AEM.65.3.1161-1167.1999.


The effects of acetate, benzoate, and periods without substrate on the anaerobic degradation of terephthalate (1, 4-benzene-dicarboxylate) by a syntrophic methanogenic culture were studied. The culture had been enriched on terephthalate and was capable of benzoate degradation without a lag phase. When incubated with a mixture of benzoate and terephthalate, subsequent degradation with preference for benzoate was observed. Both benzoate and acetate inhibited the anaerobic degradation of terephthalate. The observed inhibition is partially irreversible, resulting in a decrease (or even a complete loss) of the terephthalate-degrading activity after complete degradation of benzoate or acetate. Irreversible inhibition was characteristic for terephthalate degradation only because the inhibition of benzoate degradation by acetate could well be described by reversible noncompetitive product inhibition. Terephthalate degradation was furthermore irreversibly inhibited by periods without substrate of only a few hours. The inhibition of terephthalate degradation due to periods without substrate could be overcome through incubation of the culture with a mixture of benzoate and terephthalate. In this case no influence of a period without substrate was observed. Based on these observations it is postulated that decarboxylation of terephthalate, resulting in the formation of benzoate, is strictly dependent on the concomitant fermentation of benzoate. In the presence of higher concentrations of benzoate, however, benzoate is the favored substrate over terephthalate, and the culture loses its ability to degrade terephthalate. In order to overcome the inhibition of terephthalate degradation by benzoate and acetate, a two-stage reactor system is suggested for the treatment of wastewater generated during terephthalic acid production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / pharmacology
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Benzoates / pharmacology*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental / drug effects
  • Biomass
  • Bioreactors
  • Culture Media
  • Euryarchaeota / growth & development
  • Euryarchaeota / metabolism*
  • Methane / metabolism
  • Phthalic Acids / metabolism*
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*


  • Acetates
  • Benzoates
  • Culture Media
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • terephthalic acid
  • Methane