Co-occurrence network analysis reveals thermodynamics-driven microbial interactions in methanogenic bioreactors

Takashi Narihiro, Masaru K. Nobu, Ben T.W. Bocher, Ran Mei, Wen Tso Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Methanogenic bioreactors have been applied to treat purified terephthalic acid (PTA) wastewater containing complex aromatic compounds, such as terephthalic acid, para-toluic acid and benzoic acid. This study characterized the interaction of microbial populations in 42 samples obtained from 10 PTA-degrading methanogenic bioreactors. Approximately, 54 dominant populations (11 methanogens, 8 syntrophs and 35 functionally unknown clades) that represented 73.9% of total 16S rRNA gene iTag sequence reads were identified. Co-occurrence analysis based on the abundance of dominant OTUs showed two non-overlapping networks centred around aromatic compound- (group AR: Syntrophorhabdaceae, Syntrophus and Pelotomaculum) and fatty acid- (group FA: Smithella and Syntrophobacter) degrading syntrophs. Group AR syntrophs have no direct correlation with hydrogenotrophic methanogens, while those from group FA do. As degradation of aromatic compounds has a wider thermodynamic window than fatty acids, Group AR syntrophs may be less influenced by fluctuations in hydrogenotrophic methanogen abundance or may non-specifically interact with diverse methanogens. In both groups, network analysis reveals full-scale- and lab-scale-specific uncultivated taxa that may mediate interactions between syntrophs and methanogens, suggesting that those uncultivated taxa may support the degradation of aromatic compounds through uncharted ecophysiological traits. These observations suggest that organisms from multiple niches orchestrate their metabolic capacity in multiple interaction networks to effectively degrade PTA wastewater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)673-685
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology Reports
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Co-occurrence network analysis reveals thermodynamics-driven microbial interactions in methanogenic bioreactors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this