Tetramethylammonium-degrading methanogenic consortia from a complete-mixing suspended sludge (CMSS) and an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactors were studied using multiple PCR-based molecular techniques and shotgun proteomic approach. The prokaryotic 16S rRNA genes of the consortia were analyzed by quantitative PCR, high-throughput sequencing, and DGGE-cloning methods. The results showed that methanogenic archaea were highly predominant in both reactors but differed markedly according to community structure. Community and proteomic analysis revealed that Methanomethylovorans and Methanosarcina were the major players for the demethylation of methylated substrates and methane formation through the reduction pathway of methyl-S-CoM and possibly, acetyl-CoA synthase/decarbonylase-related pathways. Unlike high dominance of one Methanomethylovorans population in the CMSS reactor, diverse methylotrophic Methanosarcina species inhabited in syntrophy-like association with hydrogenotrophic Methanobacterium in the granular sludge of UASB reactor. The overall findings indicated the reactor-dependent community structures of quaternary amines degradation and provided microbial insight for the improved understanding of engineering application.
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