Aromatic compounds make up a large portion of biomass and are important intermediates in the global carbon cycling. Among the most industrially used aromatic compounds are phenol and pthalate isomers, which are commonly discharged in industrial wastewater and have been listed as priority pollutants by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Aromatic compounds can be broken down by syntrophic communities composed of fermentative bacteria and methanogens.
This project focuses on sequencing the genomes in three syntrophic bacterial cultures that can anaerobically degrade phenol or phthalate isomers in co-culture with a hydrogenotrophic methanogen. All three syntrophs – Pelotomaculum terephthalicum UTT, Pelotomaculum isophthalicum UIT, and Syntrophorhabdus aromaticivorans – are found in high abundance in anaerobic wastewater treatment processes. P. terephthalicum and P. isophthalicum are the first two syntrophic bacteria cultures that can degrade terephthalate and isophthalate when co-cultured with a methanogen, respectively. S. aromaticivorans is the first obligate syntrophic co-culture capable of degrading various aromatic compounds such as phenol and isophthalate. By analyzing the genomes of these microbial communtities, researchers can learn how the aromatic compounds are broken down and how the various microbes in these syntrophic communities interact with each other and use the information to develop more bioremediation applications. Additionally, from a bioenergy perspective, removing the aromatic compounds can lead to the production of methane, which can be recovered for alternative energy use.
Principal Investigators: Wen-Tso Liu, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Program: CSP 2010