Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 88(1) , 389-99 (Sep 2010)
The carboxylate platform utilizes a mixed microbial community to convert lignocellulosic biomass into chemicals and fuels. While much of the platform is well understood, little is known about its microbiology. Mesophilic (40 degrees C) and thermophilic (55 degrees C) fermentations employing a sorghum feedstock and marine sediment inoculum were profiled using 16S rRNA tag-pyrosequencing over the course of a 30-day incubation. The contrasting fermentation temperatures converted similar amounts of biomass, but the mesophilic community was significantly more productive, and the two temperatures differed significantly with respect to propionic and butyric acid production. Pyrotag sequencing revealed the presence of dynamic communities that responded rapidly to temperature and changed substantially over time. Both temperatures were dominated by bacteria resembling Clostridia, but they shared few taxa in common. The species-rich mesophilic community harbored a variety of Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, and gamma-Proteobacteria, whereas the thermophilic community was composed mainly of Clostridia and Bacilli. Despite differences in composition and productivity, similar patterns of functional class dynamics were observed. Over time, organisms resembling known cellulose degraders decreased in abundance, while organisms resembling known xylose degraders increased. Improved understanding of the carboxylate platform’s microbiology will help refine platform performance and contribute to our growing knowledge regarding biomass conversion and biofuel production processes.