Electron acceptors determine the BTEX degradation capacity of anaerobic microbiota via regulating the microbial community

Zhiming Wu, Guiping Liu, Yanhan Ji, Pengfa Li, Xin Yu, Wenjing Qiao, Baozhan Wang, Ke Shi, Wenzhong Liu, Bin Liang, Dong Wang, Keren Yanuka-Golub, Shiri Freilich, Jiandong Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anaerobic degradation is the major pathway for microbial degradation of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX) under electron acceptor lacking conditions. However, how exogenous electron acceptors modulate BTEX degradation through shaping the microbial community structure remains poorly understood. Here, we investigated the effect of various exogenous electron acceptors on BTEX degradation as well as methane production in anaerobic microbiota, which were enriched from the same contaminated soil. It was found that the BTEX degradation capacities of the anaerobic microbiota gradually increased along with the increasing redox potentials of the exogenous electron acceptors supplemented (WE: Without exogenous electron acceptors < SS: Sulfate supplement < FS: Ferric iron supplement < NS: Nitrate supplement), while the complexity of the co-occurring networks (e.g., avgK and links) of the microbiota gradually decreased, showing that microbiota supplemented with higher redox potential electron acceptors were less dependent on the formation of complex microbial interactions to perform BTEX degradation. Microbiota NS showed the highest degrading capacity and the broadest substrate-spectrum for BTEX, and it could metabolize BTEX through multiple modules which not only contained fewer species but also different key microbial taxa (eg. Petrimonas, Achromobacter and Comamonas). Microbiota WE and FS, with the highest methanogenic capacities, shared common core species such as Sedimentibacter, Acetobacterium, Methanobacterium and Smithella/Syntrophus, which cooperated with Geobacter (microbiota WE) or Desulfoprunum (microbiota FS) to perform BTEX degradation and methane production. This study demonstrates that electron acceptors may alter microbial function by reshaping microbial community structure and regulating microbial interactions and provides guidelines for electron acceptor selection for bioremediation of aromatic pollutant-contaminated anaerobic sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114420
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.


  • BTEX degradation
  • Electron acceptor
  • Microbial interaction
  • Syntrophic metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Biochemistry


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