Bioelectrochemical systems (BESs) exploit the interaction between microbes and electrodes. A field of application thereof is bioelectrochemical remediation, an effective strategy in environments where the absence of suitable electron acceptors limits classic bioremediation approaches. Understanding the microbial community structure and genetic potential of anode biofilms is of great interest to interpret the mechanisms occurring in BESs. In this study, by using a whole metagenome sequencing approach, taxonomic and functional diversity patterns in the inoculum and on the anodes of three continuous-flow BES for the removal of phenol, toluene, and BTEX were obtained. The genus Geobacter
was highly enriched on the anodes and two reconstructed genomes were taxonomically related to the Geobacteraceae family. To functionally characterize the microbial community, the genes coding for the anaerobic degradation of toluene, ethylbenzene, and phenol were selected as genetic markers for the anaerobic degradation of the pollutants. The genes related with direct extracellular electron transfer (EET) were also analyzed. The inoculum carried the genetic baggage for the degradation of aromatics but lacked the capacity of EET while anodic bacterial communities were able to pursue both processes. The metagenomic approach provided useful insights into the ecology and complex functions within hydrocarbon-degrading electrogenic biofilms.
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