Biological conversion pathways of sulfate reduction ammonium oxidation in anammox consortia
The SRAO phenomena tended to occur only under certain conditions. High amount of biomass and non-anaerobic condition is requirement for SRAO. Anammox bacteria cannot oxidize ammonium with sulfate as electron acceptor. AOB and AnAOB are mainly responsible for ammonium conversion. Heterotrophic sulfate reduction mainly contributed to sulfate conversion. For over two decades, sulfate reduction with ammonium oxidation (SRAO) had been reported from laboratory experiments. SRAO was considered an autotrophic process mediated by anammox bacteria, in which ammonium as electron donor was oxidized by the electron acceptor sulfate. This process had been attributed to observed transformations of nitrogenous and sulfurous compounds in natural environments. Results obtained differed largely for the conversion mole ratios (ammonium/sulfate), and even the intermediate and final products of sulfate reduction. Thus, the hypothesis of biological conversion pathways of ammonium and sulfate in anammox consortia is implausible. In this study, continuous reactor experiments (with working volume of 3.8L) and batch tests were conducted under normal anaerobic (0.2≤DO<0.5 mg/L) / strict anaerobic (DO<0.2 mg/L) conditions with different biomass proportions to verify the SRAO phenomena and identify possible pathways behind substrate conversion. Key findings were that SRAO occurred only in cases of high amounts of inoculant biomass under normal anaerobic condition, while absent under strict anaerobic conditions for same anammox consortia. Mass balance and stoichiometry were checked based on experimental results and the thermodynamics proposed by previous studies were critically discussed. Thus anammox bacteria do not possess the ability to oxidize ammonium with sulfate as electron acceptor and the assumed SRAO could, in fact, be a combination of aerobic ammonium oxidation, anammox and heterotrophic sulfate reduction processes.
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