Anaerobic degradation of citrate under sulfate reducing and methanogenic conditions

Victor M. Gámez, Reyes Sierra-Alvarez, Rebecca J. Waltz, James A. Field

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Citrate is an important component of metal processing effluents such as chemical mechanical planarization wastewaters of the semiconductor industry. Citrate can serve as an electron donor for sulfate reduction applied to promote the removal of metals, and it can also potentially be used by methanogens that coexist in anaerobic biofilms. The objective of this study was to evaluate the degradation of citrate with sulfate-reducing and methanogenic biofilms. During batch bioassays, the citrate, acetate, methane and sulfide concentrations were monitored. The results indicate that independent of the biofilm or incubation conditions used, citrate was rapidly fermented with specific rates ranging from 566 to 720 mg chemical oxygen demand (COD) consumed per gram volatile suspended solids per day. Acetate was found to be the main fermentation product of citrate degradation, which was later degraded completely under either methanogenic or sulfate reducing conditions. However, if either sulfate reduction or methanogenesis was infeasible due to specific inhibitors (2-bromoethane sulfonate), absence of sulfate or lack of adequate microorganisms in the biofilm, acetate accumulated to levels accounting for 90-100% of the citrate-COD consumed. Based on carbon balances measured in phosphate buffered bioassays, acetate, CO2 and hydrogen are the main products of citrate fermentation, with a molar ratio of 2:2:1 per mol of citrate, respectively. In bicarbonate buffered bioassays, acetogenesis of H2 and CO2 increased the yield of acetate. The results taken as a whole suggest that in anaerobic biofilm systems, citrate is metabolized via the formation of acetate as the main metabolic intermediate prior to methanogenesis or sulfate reduction. Sulfate reducing consortia must be enriched to utilize acetate as an electron donor in order to utilize the majority of the electron-equivalents in citrate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-510
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2009


  • Acetate
  • Anaerobic biodegradation
  • Citric acid
  • Methanogenesis
  • Sulfate reduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Microbiology
  • Environmental Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Anaerobic degradation of citrate under sulfate reducing and methanogenic conditions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this