Metabolic Reconstruction and Modeling Microbial Electrosynthesis. Academic Article uri icon


  • Microbial electrosynthesis is a renewable energy and chemical production platform that relies on microbial cells to capture electrons from a cathode and fix carbon. Yet despite the promise of this technology, the metabolic capacity of the microbes that inhabit the electrode surface and catalyze electron transfer in these systems remains largely unknown. We assembled thirteen draft genomes from a microbial electrosynthesis system producing primarily acetate from carbon dioxide, and their transcriptional activity was mapped to genomes from cells on the electrode surface and in the supernatant. This allowed us to create a metabolic model of the predominant community members belonging to Acetobacterium, Sulfurospirillum, and Desulfovibrio. According to the model, the Acetobacterium was the primary carbon fixer, and a keystone member of the community. Transcripts of soluble hydrogenases and ferredoxins from Acetobacterium and hydrogenases, formate dehydrogenase, and cytochromes of Desulfovibrio were found in high abundance near the electrode surface. Cytochrome c oxidases of facultative members of the community were highly expressed in the supernatant despite completely sealed reactors and constant flushing with anaerobic gases. These molecular discoveries and metabolic modeling now serve as a foundation for future examination and development of electrosynthetic microbial communities.

publication date

  • August 21, 2017