Functional redundancy imparts process stability to acidic Fe(II)-oxidizing microbial reactors

Diana Ayala-Muñoz, Rachel L. Simister, Sean A. Crowe, Jennifer L. Macalady, William D. Burgos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In previous work, lab-scale reactors designed to study microbial Fe(II) oxidation rates at low pH were found to have stable rates under a wide range of pH and Fe(II) concentrations. Since the stirred reactor environment eliminates many of the temporal and spatial variations that promote high diversity among microbial populations in nature, we were surprised that the reactors supported multiple taxa presumed to be autotrophic Fe(II) oxidizers based on their phylogeny. Metagenomic analyses of the reactor communities revealed differences in the metabolic potential of these taxa with respect to Fe(II) oxidation and carbon fixation pathways, acquisition of potentially growth-limiting substrates and the ability to form biofilms. Our findings support the hypothesis that the long-term co-existence of multiple autotrophic Fe(II)-oxidizing populations in the reactors are due to distinct metabolic potential that supports differential growth in response to limiting resources such as nitrogen, phosphorus and oxygen. Our data also highlight the role of biofilms in creating spatially distinct geochemical niches that enable the co-existence of multiple taxa that occupy the same apparent metabolic niche when the system is viewed in bulk. The distribution of key metabolic functions across different co-existing taxa supported functional redundancy and imparted process stability to these reactors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3682-3694
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental microbiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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