The most energy-demanding step of wastewater treatment is the aeration-dependent elimination of organic carbon. Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) offer an alternative strategy in which carbon elimination is conducted by anaerobic microorganisms that transport respiratory electrons originating from carbon oxidation to an anode. Hence, chemical energy is directly transformed into electrical energy. In this study, the use and stability of barcodecontaining exoelectrogenic model biofilms under non-axenic wastewater treatment conditions are described. Genomic barcodes were integrated in Shewanella oneidensis, Geobacter sulfurreducens, and G. metallireducens. These barcodes are unique for each strain and allow distinction between those cells and naturally occurring wild types as well as quantification of the amount of cells in a biofilm via multiplex qPCR. MFCs were pre-incubated with these three strains, and after 6 days the anodes were transferred into MFCs containing synthetic wastewater with 1% wastewater sludge. Over time, the system stabilized and the coulomb efficiency was constant. Overall, the initial synthetic biofilm community represented half of the anodic population at the end of the experimental timeline. The part of the community that contained a barcode was dominated by G. sulfurreducens cells (61.5%), while S. oneidensis and G. metallireducens cells comprised 10.5% and 17.9%, respectively. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to describe the stability of a synthetic exoelectrogenic consortium under non-axenic conditions. The observed stability offers new possibilities for the application of synthetic biofilms and synthetically engineered organisms fed with non-sterile waste streams.
Keywords: Geobacter; Shewanella; Wastewater treatment; barcoding; microbial fuel cell; qPCR.