This study evaluated the methanogens responsible for methanogenic degradation of tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) in a continuous flow bioreactor. The enriched methanogens attained an estimated maximum specific TMAH degradation rate and half-saturation constant of 39.5 mg TMAH/gVSS/h and 820 mg/L, following the Monod-type kinetic expression for methanogenic TMAH degradation. Presence of sulfide more than 20 mg/L significantly extended lag period and slowed down specific TMAH degradation rates. The results of terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP), cloning/sequencing, and quantitative real-time PCR analyses targeting on the methyl coenzyme M reductase alpha subunit (mcrA) genes retrieved from the bioreactor and batch experiments indicated that Methanomethylovorans species were the dominant methanogens responsible for methanogenic degradation of TMAH. The isolated TMAH-degrading methanogen from the bioreactor, however, was identified closely related to Methanosarcina mazei. It is likely that a very low TMAH environment in the bioreactor favored the growth of Methanomethylovorans hollandica, while the much higher TMAH in the isolation growth medium proliferated Methanosarcina mazei.
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