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Scientific Reports
Vol. 4, 2014

Thermophilic microbial cellulose decomposition and methanogenesis pathways recharacterized by metatranscriptomic and metagenomic analysis

Yu Xia, Yubo Wang, Herbert H. P. Fang, Tao Jin, Huanzi Zhong & Tong Zhang

Environmental Biotechnology Lab, Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China.

The metatranscriptomic recharacterization in the present study captured microbial enzymes at the unprecedented scale of 40,000 active genes belonged to 2,269 KEGG functions were identified. The novel information obtained herein revealed interesting patterns and provides an initial transcriptional insight into the thermophilic cellulose methanization process. Synergistic beta-sugar consumption by Thermotogales is crucial for cellulose hydrolysis in the thermophilic cellulose-degrading consortium because the primary cellulose degraders Clostridiales showed metabolic incompetence in subsequent beta-sugar pathways. Additionally, comparable transcription of putative Sus-like polysaccharide utilization loci (PULs) was observed in an unclassified order of Bacteroidetes suggesting the importance of PULs mechanism for polysaccharides breakdown in thermophilic systems. Despite the abundance of acetate as a fermentation product, the acetate-utilizing Methanosarcinales were less prevalent by 60% than the hydrogenotrophic Methanobacteriales. Whereas the aceticlastic methanogenesis pathway was markedly more active in terms of transcriptional activities in key genes, indicating that the less dominant Methanosarcinales are more active than their hydrogenotrophic counterparts in methane metabolism. These findings suggest that the minority of aceticlastic methanogens are not necessarily associated with repressed metabolism, in a pattern that was commonly observed in the cellulose-based methanization consortium, and thus challenge the causal likelihood proposed by previous studies.


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