Shewanella oneidensis in a lactate-fed pure-culture and a glucose-fed co-culture with Lactococcus lactis with an electrode as electron acceptor.
Bioelectrochemical systems (BESs) employing mixed microbial communities as biocatalysts are gaining importance as potential renewable energy, bioremediation, or biosensing devices. While we are beginning to understand how individual microbial species interact with an electrode as electron donor, little is known about the interactions between different microbial species in a community: sugar fermenting bacteria can interact with current producing microbes in a fashion that is either neutral, positively enhancing, or even negatively affecting. Here, we compare the bioelectrochemical performance of Shewanella oneidensis in a pure-culture and in a co-culture with the homolactic acid fermenter Lactococcus lactis at conditions that are pertinent to conventional BES operation. While S. oneidensis alone can only use lactate as electron donor for current production, the co-culture is able to convert glucose into current with a comparable coulombic efficiency of ∼17%. With (electro)-chemical analysis and transcription profiling, we found that the BES performance and S. oneidensis physiology were not significantly different whether grown as a pure- or co-culture. Thus, the microbes worked together in a purely substrate based (neutral) relationship. These co-culture experiments represent an important step in understanding microbial interactions in BES communities with the goal to design complex microbial communities, which specifically convert target substrates into electricity.