The effect of tungsten (W) and molybdenum (Mo) on the growth of Syntrophobacter fumaroxidans and Methanospirillum hungatei was studied in syntrophic cultures and the pure cultures of both the organisms. Cells that were grown syntropically were separated by Percoll density centrifugation. Measurement of hydrogenase and formate dehydrogenase levels in cell extracts of syntrophically grown cells correlated with the methane formation rates in the co-cultures. The effect of W and Mo on the activity of formate dehydrogenase was considerable in both the organisms, whereas hydrogenase activity remained relatively constant. Depletion of tungsten and/or molybdenum, however, did not affect the growth of the pure culture of S. fumaroxidans on propionate plus fumarate significantly, although the specific activities of hydrogenase and especially formate dehydrogenase were influenced by the absence of Mo and W. This indicates that the organism has a low W or Mo requirement under these conditions. Growth of M. hungatei on either formate or H2/CO2 required tungsten, and molybdenum could replace tungsten to some extent. Our results suggest a more prominent role for H2 as electron carrier in the syntrophic conversion of propionate, when the essential trace metals W and Mo for the functioning of formate dehydrogenase are depleted.