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This is an Open Access book chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY 4.0), which permits copying, adaptation and redistribution, provided the original work is properly cited (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). The chapter is from the book Trace Elements in Anaerobic Biotechnologies, Fernando G. Fermoso, Eric van Hullebusch, Gavin Collins, Jimmy Roussel, Ana Paula Mucha and Giovanni Esposito (Eds.).

Trace elements play a very important role on the performance and stability of biogas digesters from a variety of biomass-containing residues, both natural or synthetic. Degradation of these complex chemical compounds occurs by the interaction of numerous microorganisms carrying out a series of pathways involving fermentative processes that ultimately lead to methane production. The purpose of this study was to provide an overview of the direct relationships existing among trace elements and enzyme activity which regulates the anaerobic digestion processes carried out by these microorganisms. Methanogenesis is one of the most trace-element enriched enzymatic pathways in biology. Trace elements are major key elements in the functioning of multiple enzymes reviewed within this work. Although exact trace-element requirements may differ slightly between pathways depending on composition and the microorganisms involved, there are some general trends characterizing the anaerobic digestion processes. Iron (Fe) is the most abundantly required metal, followed by nickel (Ni), cobalt (Co), molybdenum (Mo), tungsten (W), and zinc (Zn). In order to sustain the anaerobic digestion, trace element ions are needed for the correct structural formation and the working of those enzymes. The lack of understanding on metabolic prerequisites of microorganisms and their regulatory networks, above all at full-scale industrial anaerobic digesters, may result in consequent borderline conditions with insufficient microbial activity towards optimized methane production processes.

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