Under methanogenic conditions, short-chain fatty acids are common byproducts from degradation of organic compounds and conversion of these acids is an important component of the global carbon cycle. Due to the thermodynamic difficulty of propionate degradation, this process requires syntrophic interaction between a bacterium and partner methanogen; however, the metabolic strategies and behaviour involved are not fully understood. In this study, the first genome analysis of obligately syntrophic propionate degraders (Pelotomaculum schinkii HH and P. propionicicum MGP) and comparison with other syntrophic propionate degrader genomes elucidated novel components of energy metabolism behind Pelotomaculum propionate oxidation. Combined with transcriptomic examination of P. schinkii behaviour in co-culture with Methanospirillum hungatei, we found that formate may be the preferred electron carrier for P. schinkii syntrophy. Propionate-derived menaquinol may be primarily re-oxidized to formate, and energy was conserved during formate generation through newly proposed proton-pumping formate extrusion. P. schinkii did not overexpress conventional energy metabolism associated with a model syntrophic propionate degrader Syntrophobacter fumaroxidans MPOB (i.e., CoA transferase, Fix and Rnf). We also found that P. schinkii and the partner methanogen may also interact through flagellar contact and amino acid and fructose exchange. These findings provide new understanding of syntrophic energy acquisition and interactions.© 2018 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Journal: Environmental microbiology