Product Inhibition and pH Affect Stoichiometry and Kinetics of Chain Elongating Microbial Communities in Sequencing Batch Bioreactors

Maximilienne Toetie Allaart*, Gerben Roelandt Stouten, Diana Z. Sousa, Robbert Kleerebezem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
85 Downloads (Pure)


Anaerobic microbial communities can produce carboxylic acids of medium chain length (e.g., caproate, caprylate) by elongating short chain fatty acids through reversed β-oxidation. Ethanol is a common electron donor for this process. The influence of environmental conditions on the stoichiometry and kinetics of ethanol-based chain elongation remains elusive. Here, a sequencing batch bioreactor setup with high-resolution off-gas measurements was used to identify the physiological characteristics of chain elongating microbial communities enriched on acetate and ethanol at pH 7.0 ± 0.2 and 5.5 ± 0.2. Operation at both pH-values led to the development of communities that were highly enriched (>50%, based on 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing) in Clostridium kluyveri related species. At both pH-values, stably performing cultures were characterized by incomplete substrate conversion and decreasing biomass-specific hydrogen production rates during an operational cycle. The process stoichiometries obtained at both pH-values were different: at pH 7.0, 71 ± 6% of the consumed electrons were converted to caproate, compared to only 30 ± 5% at pH 5.5. Operating at pH 5.5 led to a decrease in the biomass yield, but a significant increase in the biomass-specific substrate uptake rate, suggesting that the organisms employ catabolic overcapacity to deal with energy losses associated to product inhibition. These results highlight that chain elongating conversions rely on a delicate balance between substrate uptake- and product inhibition kinetics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number693030
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • anaerobic
  • butyrate
  • caproate
  • Clostridium kluyveri
  • enrichment
  • fermentation
  • product inhibition
  • reversed beta-oxidation


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