Process conditions affect microbial diversity and activity in a haloalkaline biodesulfurization system

Suyash Gupta, Rieks de Rink, Johannes B.M. Klok, Gerard Muyzer*, Caroline M. Plugge

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Biodesulfurization (BD) systems that treat sour gas employ mixtures of haloalkaliphilic sulfur-oxidizing bacteria to convert sulfide to elemental sulfur. In the past years, these systems have seen major technical innovations that have led to changes in microbial community composition. Different studies have identified and discussed the microbial communities in both traditional and improved systems. However, these studies do not identify metabolically active community members and merely focus on members’ presence/absence. Therefore, their results cannot confirm the activity and role of certain bacteria in the BD system. To investigate the active community members, we determined the microbial communities of six different runs of a pilot-scale BD system. 16S rRNA gene-based amplicon sequencing was performed using both DNA and RNA. A comparison of the DNA- and RNA-based sequencing results identified the active microbes in the BD system. Statistical analyses indicated that not all the existing microbes were actively involved in the system and that microbial communities continuously evolved during the operation. At the end of the run, strains affiliated with Alkalilimnicola ehrlichii and Thioalkalivibrio sulfidiphilus were confirmed as the most active key bacteria in the BD system. This study determined that microbial communities were shaped predominantly by the combination of hydraulic retention time (HRT) and sulfide concentration in the anoxic reactor and, to a lesser extent, by other operational parameters. IMPORTANCE Haloalkaliphilic sulfur-oxidizing bacteria are integral to biodesulfurization (BD) systems and are responsible for converting sulfide to sulfur. To understand the cause of conversions occurring in the BD systems, knowing which bacteria are present and active in the systems is essential. So far, only a few studies have investigated the BD system’s microbial composition, but none have identified the active microbial community. Here, we reveal the metabolically active community, their succession, and their influence on product formation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01864-23
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2024


  • 16S rRNA
  • active microbes
  • Alkalilimnicola
  • cDNA
  • sulfide oxidation
  • sulfur-oxidizing bacteria (SOB)
  • Thioalkalivibrio
  • Thiopaq


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