From granular sludge from a laboratory-scale upflow anaerobic sludge bed reactor operated at 55 degrees C with a mixture of volatile fatty acids as feed, a novel anaerobic, moderately thermophilic, syntrophic, spore-forming bacterium, strain TPO, was enriched on propionate in co-culture with Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum Z245. The axenic culture was obtained by using pyruvate as the sole source of carbon and energy. The cells were straight rods with pointed ends and became lens-shaped when sporulation started. The cells were slightly motile. The optimum growth temperature was 55 degrees C and growth was possible between 45 and 62 degrees C. The pH range for growth of strain TPO was 6-8, with an optimum at pH 7-7.5. Propionate was converted to acetate, CO2 and CH4 by a co-culture of strain TPO with Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum Z245. In pure culture, strain TPO could grow fermentatively on benzoate, fumarate, H2/CO2, pyruvate and lactate. Sulphate could serve as inorganic electron acceptor when strain TPO was grown on propionate, lactate, pyruvate and H2/CO2. The G+C content was 53.7 mol%. Comparison of 16S rDNA sequences revealed that strain TPO is related to Desulfotomaculum thermobenzoicum (98%) and Desulfotomaculum thermoacetoxidans (98%). DNA-DNA hybridization revealed 88.2% reassociation between strain TPO and D. thermobenzoicum and 83.8% between strain TPO and D. thermoacetoxidans. However, both organisms differ physiologically from strain TPO and are not capable of syntrophic propionate oxidation. It is proposed that strain TPO should be classified as new subspecies of D. thermobenzoicum as D. thermobenzoicum subsp. thermosyntrophicum.


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