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Disentangling microbial symbioses in anaerobic ecosystems

  • 1 November, 2020
  • Wageningen University, Microbiology
  • prof. dr DZ Machado De Sousa
  • prof. TJG Ettema

In Anaerobic digestion (AD) systems organic waste is decomposed to biogas for energy recovery by the activity of various microorganisms. The final steps of the process, acetogenesis and subsequent methanogenesis, are performed by organisms in syntrophic relationships, obligatory and mutualistic types of symbiosis in which the microorganisms depend on each other for energetic reasons. Although this syntrophic metabolism is essential to maintain an efficient AD system, studies investigating the microbial physiology are limited due to a lack in isolated and enrichment cultures.
The first goal of this project is to obtain enrichment cultures of hypothesized syntrophic organisms, which will allow a more detailed investigation into the microbial interactions occurring in AD systems. The project will start with a focus on the hypothesized relationship between Woesearchaeota and methanogenic archaea. To confirm and study this potential syntrophy, a reactor will be started to obtain an enrichment culture.
A second, parallel research line in this project will focus on already confirmed syntrophic relationships. Through selectively setting up cocultures and tricultures of fatty-acid oxidizing syntrophs and methanogenic microorganisms, we will explore more details on their interaction.

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Maaike Besteman

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