Simultaneous production of sulfide and methane by anaerobic sewer biofilms has recently been observed, suggesting that sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) and methanogenic archaea (MA), microorganisms known to compete for the same substrates, can coexist in this environment. This study investigated the community structures and activities of SRB and MA in anaerobic sewer biofilms (average thickness of 800 μm) using a combination of microelectrode measurements, molecular techniques, and mathematical modeling. It was seen that sulfide was mainly produced in the outer layer of the biofilm, between the depths of 0 and 300 μm, which is in good agreement with the distribution of SRB population as revealed by cryosection-fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). SRB had a higher relative abundance of 20% on the surface layer, which decreased gradually to below 3% at a depth of 400 μm. In contrast, MA mainly inhabited the inner layer of the biofilm. Their relative abundances increased from 10% to 75% at depths of 200 μm and 700 μm, respectively, from the biofilm surface layer. High-throughput pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA amplicons showed that SRB in the biofilm were mainly affiliated with five genera, Desulfobulbus, Desulfomicrobium, Desulfovibrio, Desulfatiferula, and Desulforegula, while about 90% of the MA population belonged to the genus Methanosaeta. The spatial organizations of SRB and MA revealed by pyrosequencing were consistent with the FISH results. A biofilm model was constructed to simulate the SRB and MA distributions in the anaerobic sewer biofilm. The good fit between model predictions and the experimental data indicate that the coexistence and spatial structure of SRB and MA in the biofilm resulted from the microbial types and their metabolic transformations and interactions with substrates.

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Last updated: 11th Apr 2017