Novel insights into the anaerobic digestion of propionate via Syntrophobacter fumaroxidans and Geobacter sulfurreducens: process and mechanism

Tao Wang, Gefu Zhu, Bin Kuang, Jianbo Jia, Changyu Liu, Guanjing Cai, Chunxing Li

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


The accumulation of volatile fatty acids, particularly propionic acid, significantly inhibits the efficiency of the anaerobic digestion system. In propionate degradation metabolism, the unfavorable thermodynamics of syntrophic reactions, strict ecological niche of syntrophic priopionate oxidizing bacteria, and slow metabolic rate of methanogens are regarded as major limitations. In this study, Geobacter sulfurreducens was co-cultured with Syntrophobacter fumaroxidans in bioelelectrochemical cells to analyze the propionate degradation process, impact factor, mechanism metabolic pathways, and electron transfer comprehensively. The results revealed that the syntroph S. fumaroxidans and syntrophic partner G. sulfurreducens achieved more efficient propionate degradation than the control group, comprising S. fumaroxidans and methanogens. Moreover, the carbon resource concentration and pH were both significantly correlated with propionate degradation (P < 0.01). The results further confirmed that G. sulfurreducen strengthened the consumption of H2 and acetate via direct interspecific electron transfer in propionate degradation. These findings indicate that G. sulfurreducens plays an unidentified functional role in propionate degradation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number117270
JournalWater Research
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Propionate
  • Syntrophism
  • Syntrophobacter fumaroxidans
  • Geobacter sulfurreducens
  • Mechanism


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