The objective of the current study was to expand the knowledge of the role of acetogenic Bacteria in high rate anaerobic digesters. To this end, acetogens were enriched by supplying a variety of acetogenic growth supportive substrates to two laboratory scale high rate upflow anaerobic sludge bed (UASB) reactors operated at 37 degrees C (R1) and 55 degrees C (R2). The reactors were initially fed a glucose/acetate influent. Having achieved high operational performance and granular sludge development and activity, both reactors were changed to homoacetogenic bacterial substrates on day 373 of the trial. The reactors were initially fed with sodium vanillate as a sole substrate. Although % COD removal indicated that the 55 degrees C reactor out performed the 37 degrees C reactor, effluent acetate levels from R2 were generally higher than from R1, reaching values as high as 5023 mg l(-1). Homoacetogenic activity in both reactors was confirmed on day 419 by specific acetogenic activity (SAA) measurement, with higher values obtained for R2 than R1.Sodium formate was introduced as sole substrate to both reactors on day 464. It was found that formate supported acetogenic activity at both temperatures. By the end of the trial, no specific methanogenic activity (SMA) was observed against acetate and propionate indicating that the methane produced was solely by hydrogenotrophic Archaea. Higher SMA and SAA values against H-2/CO2 suggested development of a formate utilising acetogenic population growing in syntrophy with hydrogenotrophic methanogens. Throughout the formate trial, the mesophilic reactor performed better overall than the thermophilic reactor. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.