The microbial communities from three upflow anaerobic bioreactors treating purified terephthalic acid (PTA) wastewater were characterized with 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing surveys. Universal bacterial and archaeal primers were used to compare the bioreactor communities to each other. A total of 1,733 bacterial sequences and 383 archaeal sequences were characterized. The high number of Syntrophus spp. and Pelotomaculum spp. found within these reactors indicates efficient removal of benzoate and terephthalate. Under anaerobic conditions benzoate can be degraded through syntrophic associations between these bacteria and hydrogen-scavenging microbes, such as Desulfovibrio spp. and hydrogenotrophic methanogens, which remove H2 to force the thermodynamically unfavourable reactions to take place. The authors did not observe a relatively high percentage of hydrogenotrophic methanogens with the archaeal gene survey because of a high acetate flux (acetate is a main component in PTA wastewater and is the main degradation product of terephthalate/benzoate fermentation), and because of the presence of Desulfovibrio spp. (a sulfate reducer that scavenges hydrogen). The high acetate flux also explains the high percentage of acetoclastic methanogens from the genus Methanosaeta among the archaeal sequences. A group of uncultured bacteria (OD1) may be involved in the degradation of p-toluate (4-methyl benzoate), which is a component of PTA wastewater.
Keywords: anaerobic digestion, methanogens, p-toluate, PTA wastewater, 16S rRNA gene survey, terephthalate