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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Enrichment and description of novel bacteria performing syntrophic propionate oxidation at high ammonia level

Singh, Abhijeet; Schnurer, Anna; Westerholm, Maria

Abstract

Inefficient syntrophic propionate degradation causes severe operating disturbances and reduces biogas productivity in many high-ammonia anaerobic digesters, but propionate-degrading microorganisms in these systems remain unknown. Here, we identified candidate ammonia-tolerant syntrophic propionate-oxidising bacteria using propionate enrichment at high ammonia levels (0.7-0.8 g NH3 L-1) in continuously-fed reactors. We reconstructed 30 high-quality metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) from the propionate-fed reactors, which revealed two novel species from the families Peptococcaceae and Desulfobulbaceae as syntrophic propionate-oxidising candidates. Both MAGs possess genomic potential for the propionate oxidation and electron transfer required for syntrophic energy conservation and, similar to ammonia-tolerant acetate degrading syntrophs, both MAGs contain genes predicted to link to ammonia and pH tolerance. Based on relative abundance, a Peptococcaceae sp. appeared to be the main propionate degrader and has been given the provisional name "Candidatus Syntrophopropionicum ammoniitolerans". This bacterium was also found in high-ammonia biogas digesters, using quantitative PCR. Acetate was degraded by syntrophic acetate-oxidising bacteria and the hydrogenotrophic methanogenic community consisted of Methanoculleus bourgensis and a yet to be characterised Methanoculleus sp. This work provides knowledge of cooperating syntrophic species in high-ammonia systems and reveals that ammonia-tolerant syntrophic propionate-degrading populations share common features, but diverge genomically and taxonomically from known species.

Published in

Environmental Microbiology
2021, Volume: 23, number: 3, pages: 1620-1637 Publisher: WILEY