Syntrophic microorganisms perform unique and crucial tasks in microbial processes used for sustainable energy (methane) and nutrient recovery from various organic waste streams. These syntrophic microorganisms cooperate to metabolically degrade acids but there are barriers and challenges to these organisms reaching their full potential, which restricts productivity and stability in the biomethane process. The cooperative lifestyle and cultivation of syntrophic microorganisms strongly points towards linkage between syntrophic cell aggregation (SYNAG) and acid-degrading activities that open up opportunities for biotechnology strategies. In this project, I will provide fundamental understanding of environmental, microbial, and physical effects on cell aggregating activities in syntrophic communities. To do so, I will take advantage of a unique collection of syntrophic cultures obtained through extensive research. Firstly, I will unravel mechanisms used for aggregation by comparing the transcriptional profiles of syntrophic cultures and develop molecular analyses to quantify aggregating activities. The second part of the project will focus on development of a cultivation system and in-situ detection that will maintain the complex syntrophic interactions intact. These methods will be combined for parallel analyses of cell aggregation in syntrophic communities and their responses in to a wide spectrum of factors with relevance to anaerobic processes. Aggregating activities will further be linked to effects on acid degradation rates and resistance of the microbial community towards stress. In the final part of the project, factors that enhance aggregating activities will be assessed in systems that mimic the real situation in anaerobic systems. SYNAG will thus provide fundamental understanding of syntrophic ecology and physiology that will be highly valuable in anaerobic techniques that has great expansion potential in future work of building biomass based platforms.
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