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Aromatic and Volatile Acid Intermediates Observed during Anaerobic Metabolism of Lignin-Derived Oligomers

  • P. J. Colberg
  • L. Y. Young
Publication Date
Feb 01, 1985


Anaerobic enrichment cultures acclimated for 2 years to use a 14C-labeled, lignin-derived substrate with a molecular weight of 600 as a sole source of carbon were characterized by capillary and packed column gas chromatography. After acclimation, several of the active methanogenic consortia were inhibited with 2-bromoethanesulfonic acid, which suppressed methane formation and enhanced accumulation of a series of metabolic intermediates. Volatile fatty acids levels in 2-bromoethanesulfonic acid-amended cultures were 10 times greater than those in the uninhibited, methane-forming consortia with acetate as the predominant component. Furthermore, in the 2-bromoethanesulfonic acid-amended consortia, almost half of the original substrate carbon was metabolized to 10 monoaromatic compounds, with the most appreciable quantities accumulated as cinnamic, benzoic, caffeic, vanillic, and ferulic acids. 2-Bromoethanesulfonic acid seemed to effectively block CH4 formation in the anaerobic food chain, resulting in the observed buildup of volatile fatty acids and monoaromatic intermediates. Neither fatty acids nor aromatic compounds were detected in the oligolignol substrate before its metabolism, suggesting that these anaerobic consortia have the ability to mediate the cleavage of the β-aryl-ether bond, the most common intermonomeric linkage in lignin, with the subsequent release of the observed constituent aromatic monomers.

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