Syntrophic propionate-oxidizing bacteria in methanogenic systems

Maria Westerholm*, Magdalena Calusinska, Jan Dolfing

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


The mutual nutritional cooperation underpinning syntrophic propionate degradation provides a scant amount of energy for the microorganisms involved, so propionate degradation often acts as a bottleneck in methanogenic systems. Understanding the ecology, physiology, and metabolic capacities of syntrophic propionate-oxidizing bacteria is of interest in both engineered and natural ecosystems, as it offers prospects to guide further development of technologies for biogas production and biomass-derived chemicals, and is important in forecasting contributions by biogenic methane emissions to climate change. Syntrophic propionate-oxidizing bacteria are distributed across different phyla. They can exhibit broad metabolic capabilities in addition to syntrophy (e.g. fermentative, sulfidogenic, and acetogenic metabolism) and demonstrate variations in interplay with cooperating partners, indicating nuances in their syntrophic lifestyle. In this review, we discuss distinctions in gene repertoire and organization for the methylmalonyl-CoA pathway, hydrogenases and formate dehydrogenases, and emerging facets of (formate/hydrogen/direct) electron transfer mechanisms. We also use information from cultivations, thermodynamic calculations, and omic analyses as the basis for identifying environmental conditions governing propionate oxidation in various ecosystems. Overall, this review improves basic and applied understanding of syntrophic propionate-oxidizing bacteria and highlights knowledge gaps, hopefully encouraging future research and engineering on propionate metabolism in biotechnological processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfuab057
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalFEMS Microbiology Reviews
Issue number2
Early online date7 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2022


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