Enrichment of denitrifying anaerobic methane oxidizing microorganisms


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The microorganisms responsible for anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) coupled to denitrification have not been clearly elucidated. Three recent publications suggested it can be achieved by a denitrifying bacterium with or without the involvement of anaerobic methanotrophic archaea. A key factor limiting the progress in this research field is the shortage of enrichment cultures performing denitrifying anaerobic methane oxidation (DAMO). In this study, DAMO cultures were enriched from mixed inoculum including sediment from a freshwater lake, anaerobic digester sludge and return activated sludge from a sewage treatment plant. Two reactors, operated at 35°C and at 22°C, respectively, showed simultaneous methane oxidation and nitrate reduction after several months of operation. Analysis of 16S rRNA gene clone libraries from the 35°C enrichment showed the presence of an archaeon closely related to other DAMO archaea and a dominated bacterium belonging to the yet uncultivated NC10 phylum. This culture preferred nitrite to nitrate as the electron acceptor. The present study suggests that the archaea are rather methanotrophs than methanogens. The highest denitrification rate achieved was 2.35 mmol NO3--N gVSS−1 day−1. The culture enriched at 22°C contained the same NC10 bacterium observed in the culture enriched at 35°C but no archaea.