Indexed on: 17 Feb '17Published on: 17 Feb '17Published in: Environmental Microbiology Reports
Hydrogen and formate are important electron carriers in methanogenic degradation in anoxic environments such as sediments, sewage sludge digestors, and biogas reactors. Especially in the terminal steps of methanogenesis, they determine the energy budgets of secondary (syntrophically) fermenting bacteria and their methanogenic partners. The literature provides considerable data on hydrogen pool sizes in such habitats, but little data exist for formate concentrations due to technical difficulties in formate determination at low concentration. Recent evidence from biochemical and molecular biological studies indicates that several secondary fermenters can use both hydrogen and formate for electron release, and may do so even simultaneously. Numerous strictly anaerobic bacteria contain enzymes which equilibrate hydrogen and formate pools to energetically equal values, and recent measurements in sewage digestors and biogas reactors indicate that - beyond occasional fluctuations - the pool sizes of hydrogen and formate are indeed energetically nearly equivalent. Nonetheless, a thermophilic archaeon from a submarine hydrothermal vent, Thermococcus onnurineus, can obtain ATP from the conversion of formate to hydrogen plus bicarbonate at 80°C, indicating that at least in this extreme environment the pools of formate and hydrogen are likely to be sufficiently different to support such an unusual type of energy conservation. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.