metabolic association; electron transfer; nutrient exchange; degradation; ecological niche; microbial cooperation. Classical definitions of syntrophy focus on a process, performed through metabolic interaction between dependent microbial partners, such as the degra-dation of complex organic compounds under anoxic conditions. However, examples from past and current scientific discoveries suggest that a new, simple but wider definition is necessary to cover all aspects of microbial syntrophy. We suggest the term ‘obligately mutualistic metabolism’, which still focuses on microbial metabolic cooperation but also includes an ecological aspect: the benefit for both partners. By the combined metabolic activity of micro-organisms, endergonic reactions can become exergonic through the efficient removal of products and therefore enable a microbial community to survive with minimal energy resources. Here, we explain the principles of classical an
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