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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Development of a Model, Metal-reducing Microbial Community for a System Biology Level Assessment of Desulfovibrio vulgaris as part of a Community


One of the largest experimental gaps is between the simplicity of pure cultures and the complexity of open environmental systems, particularly in metal-contaminated areas. These microbial communities form ecosystem foundations, drive biogeochemical processes, and are relevant for biotechnology and bioremediation. A model, metal-reducing microbial community was constructed as either syntrophic or competitive to study microbial cell to cell interactions, cell signaling and competition for resources. The microbial community was comprised of the metal-reducing Desulfovibrio vulgaris Hildenborough and Geobacter sulfurreducens PCA. Additionally, Methanococcus maripaludis S2 was added to study complete carbon reduction and maintain a low hydrogen partial pressure for syntrophism to occur. Further, considerable work has been published on D. vulgaris and the D. vulgaris/ Mc. maripaludis co-culture both with and without stress. We are extending this work by conducting the same stress conditions on the model community. Additionally, this comprehensive investigation includes physiological and metabolic analyses as well as specially designed mRNA microarrays with the genes for all three organisms on one slide so as to follow gene expression changes in the various cultivation conditions as well as being comparable to the co- and individual cultures. Further, state-of -the-art comprehensive AMT tag proteomics allows for these comparisons at the protein level for a systems biology assessment of a model, metal-reducing microbial community. Preliminary data revealed that lactate oxidation by D. vulgaris was sufficient to support both G. sulfurreducens and M. maripaludis via the excretion of H2 and acetate. Fumarate was utilized by G. sulfurreducens and reduced to succinate since neither of the other two organisms can reduce fumarate. Methane was quantified, suggesting acetate and H2 concentrations were sufficient for M. maripaludis. Steady state community cultivation will allow for a comprehensive, system biology level analysis of a metal-reducing microbial community.

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