In this study, we used multiple meta-omic approaches to characterize the microbial community and the active metabolic pathways of a stable industrial biogas reactor with food waste as the dominant feedstock, operating at thermophilic temperatures (60°C) and elevated levels of free ammonia (367 mg/liter NH3-N). The microbial community was strongly dominated (76% of all 16S rRNA amplicon sequences) by populations closely related to the proteolytic bacterium Coprothermobacter proteolyticus. Multiple Coprothermobacter-affiliated strains were detected, introducing an additional level of complexity seldom explored in biogas studies. Genome reconstructions provided metabolic insight into the microbes that performed biomass deconstruction and fermentation, including the deeply branching phyla Dictyoglomi and Planctomycetes and the candidate phylum "Atribacteria" These biomass degraders were complemented by a synergistic network of microorganisms that convert key fermentation intermediates (fatty acids) via syntrophic interactions with hydrogenotrophic methanogens to ultimately produce methane. Interpretation of the proteomics data also suggested activity of a Methanosaeta phylotype acclimatized to high ammonia levels. In particular, we report multiple novel phylotypes proposed as syntrophic acetate oxidizers, which also exert expression of enzymes needed for both the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway and β-oxidation of fatty acids to acetyl coenzyme A. Such an arrangement differs from known syntrophic oxidizing bacteria and presents an interesting hypothesis for future studies. Collectively, these findings provide increased insight into active metabolic roles of uncultured phylotypes and presents new synergistic relationships, both of which may contribute to the stability of the biogas reactor.
Importance: Biogas production through anaerobic digestion of organic waste provides an attractive source of renewable energy and a sustainable waste management strategy. A comprehensive understanding of the microbial community that drives anaerobic digesters is essential to ensure stable and efficient energy production. Here, we characterize the intricate microbial networks and metabolic pathways in a thermophilic biogas reactor. We discuss the impact of frequently encountered microbial populations as well as the metabolism of newly discovered novel phylotypes that seem to play distinct roles within key microbial stages of anaerobic digestion in this stable high-temperature system. In particular, we draft a metabolic scenario whereby multiple uncultured syntrophic acetate-oxidizing bacteria are capable of syntrophically oxidizing acetate as well as longer-chain fatty acids (via the β-oxidation and Wood-Ljundahl pathways) to hydrogen and carbon dioxide, which methanogens subsequently convert to methane.
Keywords: anaerobic digestion; metagenomics; metaproteomics; methane; microbial community.
Copyright © 2016 American Society for Microbiology.