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Distinctive Responses of Metabolically Active Microbiota to Acidification in a Thermophilic Anaerobic Digester

Masateru Akuzawa, Tomoyuki Hori, Shin Haruta, Yoshiyuki Ueno, Masaharu Ishii and Yasuo Igarashi
Microbial Ecology
Vol. 61, No. 3 (April 2011), pp. 595-605
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41489081
Page Count: 11
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Distinctive Responses of Metabolically Active Microbiota to Acidification in a Thermophilic Anaerobic Digester
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Abstract

Acidification is one of the most common and serious problems inducing process failure in anaerobic digesters. The production of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) mainly triggers acidic shock. However, little is known about the bacteria involved in the processes of acidogenic metabolism, such as fermentation and reductive acetogenesis. Here, the metabolic responses of a methanogenic community to the acidification and resulting process deterioration were investigated using transcriptional profiling of both the 16S rRNA and formyltetrahydrofolate synthetase (FTHFS) genes. The 16S rRNA-based analyses demonstrated that the dynamic shift of bacterial populations was closely correlated with reactor performance, especially with VFA accumulation levels. The pH drop accompanied by an increase in VFAs stimulated the metabolic activation of an uncultured Chloroflexi subphylum I bacterium. The subphylum has been characterized as a fermentative carbohydrate degrader using culture- and molecular-based ecophysiological assays. At the beginning of VFA accumulation, FTHFS genes were expressed; the transcripts were derived from phylogenetically predicted homoacetogens, suggesting that reductive acetogenesis was operated by hitherto unidentified bacteria. When acetate concentrations were high, the FTHFS expression ceased and Thermoanaerobacterium aciditolerans proliferated selectively. This thermoacidophilic bacterium would play a decisive role in acetate production via fermentative metabolism. The results of this study reveal for the first time that an uncultured Chloroflexi, T. aciditolerans, and novel homoacetogens were metabolically associated with acidic shock and subsequent VFA accumulation in an anaerobic digester.

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