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Microbial catabolic activities are naturally selected by metabolic energy harvest rate

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Rebeca Gonzalez-Cabaleiro, Dr Dana OfiteruORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The fundamental trade-off between yield and rate of energy harvest per unit of substrate has beenlargely discussed as a main characteristic for microbial established cooperation or competition. Inthis study, this point is addressed by developing a generalized model that simulates competitionbetween existing and not experimentally reported microbial catabolic activities defined only based onwell-known biochemical pathways. No specific microbial physiological adaptations are considered,growth yield is calculated coupled to catabolism energetics and a common maximum biomass-specific catabolism rate (expressed as electron transfer rate) is assumed for all microbial groups.Under this approach, successful microbial metabolisms are predicted in line with experimentalobservations under the hypothesis of maximum energy harvest rate. Two microbial ecosystems,typically found in wastewater treatment plants, are simulated, namely: (i) the anaerobic fermentationof glucose and (ii) the oxidation and reduction of nitrogen under aerobic autotrophic (nitrification) andanoxic heterotrophic and autotrophic (denitrification) conditions. The experimentally observed crossfeeding in glucose fermentation, through multiple intermediate fermentation pathways, towardsultimately methane and carbon dioxide is predicted. Analogously, two-stage nitrification(by ammonium and nitrite oxidizers) is predicted as prevailing over nitrification in one stage.Conversely, denitrification is predicted in one stage (by denitrifiers) as well as anammox (anaerobicammonium oxidation). The model results suggest that these observations are a direct consequenceof the different energy yields per electron transferred at the different steps of the pathways. Overall,our results theoretically support the hypothesis that successful microbial catabolic activities areselected by an overall maximum energy harvest rate.

Publication metadata

Author(s): González-Cabaleiro R, Ofiteru ID, Lema JM, Rodríguez J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: ISME Journal

Year: 2015

Volume: 9

Issue: 12

Pages: 2630-2641

Print publication date: 01/12/2015

Online publication date: 10/07/2015

Acceptance date: 25/03/2015

Date deposited: 05/04/2016

ISSN (print): 1751-7362

ISSN (electronic): 1751-7370

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/ismej.2015.69

PubMed id: 26161636


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