Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 80, Issue 6, pp 985–993 | Cite as

Use of Pseudomonas species producing phenazine-based metabolites in the anodes of microbial fuel cells to improve electricity generation

  • The Hai Pham
  • Nico Boon
  • Katrien De Maeyer
  • Monica Höfte
  • Korneel Rabaey
  • Willy Verstraete
Biotechnological Products and Process Engineering


The rate of anodic electron transfer is one of the factors limiting the performance of microbial fuel cells (MFCs). It is known that phenazine-based metabolites produced by Pseudomonas species can function as electron shuttles for Pseudomonas themselves and also, in a syntrophic association, for Gram-positive bacteria. In this study, we have investigated whether phenazine-based metabolites and their producers could be used to improve the electricity generation of a MFC operated with a mixed culture. Both anodic supernatants obtained from MFCs operated with a Pseudomonas strain (P-PCA) producing phenazine-1-carboxylic acid (PCA) and those from MFCs operated with a strain (P-PCN) producing phenazine-1-carboxamide (PCN) exerted similarly positive effects on the electricity generation of a mixed culture. Replacing supernatants of MFCs operated with a mixed culture with supernatants of MFCs operated with P-PCN could double the currents generated. Purified PCA and purified PCN had similar effects. If the supernatant of an engineered strain overproducing PCN was used, the effect could be maintained over longer time courses, resulting in a 1.5-fold increase in the production of charge. Bioaugmentation of the mixed culture MFCs using slow release tubes containing P-PCN not only doubled the currents but also maintained the effect over longer periods. The results demonstrated the electron-shuttling effect of phenazine-based compounds produced by Pseudomonas species and their capacity to improve the performance of MFCs operated with mixed cultures.


Microbial fuel cell Electrochemically active bacteria Phenazines Bacterial interactions Mixed culture 



This research was supported by a grant from the Flanders Research Foundation (FWO project G.0172.05).

Supplementary material

253_2008_1619_MOESM1_ESM.doc (74 kb)
Fig. S1 Current patterns of the test tube MFCs operated with the mixed culture bioaugmented by simply adding free cells of the Pseudomonas strains. Experiment 1 (FC exp. 1): The addition was done after 3 days of default operation; at time A: the cells of the corresponding Pseudomonas strains (indicated in the figure) were added to the anode content of the TTMFCs; at time B: the cells were added again and the medium was replenished; at time C: only medium replenishment was carried out. Experiment 2 (FC exp. 2): The Pseudomonas cells were added from the start-up of the TTMFCs, together with the inoculum; at time A: no action was taken; at times B and C: only medium replenishment was carried out. (DOC 76 KB)
253_2008_1619_MOESM2_ESM.doc (73 kb)
Fig. S2 A copy of Fig. 3 with standard deviations. (DOC 74 KB)
253_2008_1619_MOESM3_ESM.doc (973 kb)
Fig. S3 HPLC chromatograms for PCN analysis (at the wavelength of 390 nm) of the supernatants of TTMFCs operated with the mixed culture added with SR tubes containing P-PCN. a In experiment 1 (as explained in Fig. 3), 1 day after the addition; b in experiment 1, after the currents decreased (before time B); c in experiment 2 (as explained in Fig. 3), 1 day after the inoculation (including addition of the SR tubes); d in experiment 2, 4 days after the start-up time (before time B). Control: the supernatant of the TTMFC operated with only the mixed culture (no SR tubes addition). Standard: A solution containing purified PCN (about 1–2 g L−1) (DOC 996 KB).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • The Hai Pham
    • 1
  • Nico Boon
    • 1
  • Katrien De Maeyer
    • 2
  • Monica Höfte
    • 2
  • Korneel Rabaey
    • 3
  • Willy Verstraete
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (LabMET)Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Laboratory of PhytopathologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Advanced Water Management CentreUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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