Microbial community engineering aims for enrichment of a specific microbial trait by imposing specific cultivation conditions. This work demonstrates that things may be more complicated than typically presumed and that microbial competition can be affected by seemingly insignificant variables, like in this case the type of acid used for pH control. Aerobic bioreactors pulse fed with acetate operated with hydrochloric acid resulted in the enrichment of Plasticicumulans acidivorans, and changing the pH controlling agent to sulfuric acid shifted the community towards Zoogloea sp. Further research demonstrated that the change in community structure was not directly caused by the change in acid used for pH control, but resulted from the difference in corrosive strength of both acids and the related iron leaching from the bioreactor piping. Neither system was iron deficient, suggesting that the biological availability of iron is affected by the leaching process. Our results demonstrate that microbial competition and process development can be affected dramatically by secondary factors related to nutrient supply and bioavailability, and is way more complex than generally assumed in a single carbon substrate limited process.
- bioavailability iron
- microbial competition