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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Characterization of a filamentous biofilm community established in a cellulose-fed microbial fuel cell

Shun'ichi Ishii13, Takefumi Shimoyama1, Yasuaki Hotta2 and Kazuya Watanabe1*

Author Affiliations

1 Marine Biotechnology Institute, Heita, Kamaishi, Iwate 026-000, Japan

2 Central Research Institute of Oral Science, School of Dentistry, Asahi University, Hozumi, Mizuho, Gifu 501-0296, Japan

3 Institute for Biological Resources and Function, AIST, Higashi, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8566, Japan

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BMC Microbiology 2008, 8:6  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-8-6

Published: 10 January 2008



Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are devices that exploit microorganisms to generate electric power from organic matter. Despite the development of efficient MFC reactors, the microbiology of electricity generation remains to be sufficiently understood.


A laboratory-scale two-chamber microbial fuel cell (MFC) was inoculated with rice paddy field soil and fed cellulose as the carbon and energy source. Electricity-generating microorganisms were enriched by subculturing biofilms that attached onto anode electrodes. An electric current of 0.2 mA was generated from the first enrichment culture, and ratios of the major metabolites (e.g., electric current, methane and acetate) became stable after the forth enrichment. In order to investigate the electrogenic microbial community in the anode biofilm, it was morphologically analyzed by electron microscopy, and community members were phylogenetically identified by 16S rRNA gene clone-library analyses. Electron microscopy revealed that filamentous cells and rod-shaped cells with prosthecae-like filamentous appendages were abundantly present in the biofilm. Filamentous cells and appendages were interconnected via thin filaments. The clone library analyses frequently detected phylotypes affiliated with Clostridiales, Chloroflexi, Rhizobiales and Methanobacterium. Fluorescence in-situ hybridization revealed that the Rhizobiales population represented rod-shaped cells with filamentous appendages and constituted over 30% of the total population.


Bacteria affiliated with the Rhizobiales constituted the major population in the cellulose-fed MFC and exhibited unique morphology with filamentous appendages. They are considered to play important roles in the cellulose-degrading electrogenic community.