Effect of nickel and cobalt on methanogenic enrichment cultures and role of biogenic sulfide in metal toxicity attenuation

Lara da Luz Ferreira Martins Paulo, Javier Ramiro-Garcia, Simon van Mourik, Alfons J.M. Stams, Diana Machado de Sousa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Metals play an important role in microbial metabolism by acting as cofactors for many enzymes. Supplementation of biological processes with metals may result in improved performance, but high metal concentrations are often toxic to microorganisms. In this work, methanogenic enrichment cultures growing on H2/CO2 or acetate were supplemented with trace concentrations of nickel (Ni) and cobalt (Co), but no significant increase in methane production was observed in most of the tested conditions. However, high concentrations of these metals were detrimental to methanogenic activity of the cultures. Cumulative methane production (after 6 days of incubation) from H2/CO2 was 40% lower in the presence of 8 mM of Ni or 30 mM of Co, compared to controls without metal supplementation. When acetate was used as substrate, cumulative methane production was also reduced: by 18% with 8 mM of Ni and by 53% with 30 mM of Co (after 6 days of incubation). Metal precipitation with sulfide was further tested as a possible method to alleviate metal toxicity. Anaerobic sludge was incubated with Co (30 mM) and Ni (8 mM) in the presence of sulfate or sulfide. The addition of sulfide helped to mitigate the toxic effect of the metals. Methane production from H2/CO2 was negatively affected in the presence of sulfate, possibly due to competition of hydrogenotrophic methanogens by sulfate-reducing bacteria. However, in the enrichment cultures growing on acetate, biogenically produced sulfide had a positive effect and more methane was produced in these incubations than in similar assays without sulfate addition. The outcome of competition between methanogens and sulfate-reducing bacteria is a determinant factor for the success of using biogenic sulfide as detoxification method.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1341
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Anaerobic sludge
  • Heavy metals
  • Inhibition
  • Stimulation
  • Sulfate
  • Sulfide


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