Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 89, Issue 2, pp 303–314 | Cite as

Correlations between molecular and operational parameters in continuous lab-scale anaerobic reactors

  • Marta Carballa
  • Marianne Smits
  • Claudia Etchebehere
  • Nico Boon
  • Willy Verstraete
Biotechnological Products and Process Engineering


In this study, the microbial community characteristics in continuous lab-scale anaerobic reactors were correlated to reactor functionality using the microbial resource management (MRM) approach. Two molecular techniques, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP), were applied to analyze the bacterial and archaeal communities, and the results obtained have been compared. Clustering analyses showed a similar discrimination of samples with DGGE and T-RFLP data, with a clear separation between the meso- and thermophilic communities. Both techniques indicate that bacterial and mesophilic communities were richer and more even than archaeal and thermophilic communities, respectively. Remarkably, the community composition was highly dynamic for both Bacteria and Archaea, with a rate of change between 30% and 75% per 18 days, also in stable performing periods. A hypothesis to explain the latter in the context of the converging metabolism in anaerobic processes is proposed. Finally, a more even and diverse bacterial community was found to be statistically representative for a well-functioning reactor as evidenced by a low Ripley index and high biogas production.


Anaerobic digestion Community organization Diversity Dynamics Microbial community structure Richness 



This research was funded by the project Sewage Plus 180B12A7 (MIP project, Milieu- & Energietechnologie–Innovatieplatform, Berchem, Belgium), the Geconcerteerde Onderzoeksactie (GOA) of Ghent University contract grant (BOF09/GOA/005), the fellowship of CSIC-UdelaR (Uruguay) for Dr. Claudia Etchebehere, and by a postdoctoral contract for Dr. Marta Carballa from the Xunta de Galicia (Isidro Parga Pondal program, IPP-08-37). The authors acknowledge Dr. Jingxing Ma and Varvara Tsilia for their support and cooperation with the lab work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marta Carballa
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marianne Smits
    • 2
  • Claudia Etchebehere
    • 3
  • Nico Boon
    • 2
  • Willy Verstraete
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Chemical Engineering, School of EngineeringUniversity of Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaSpain
  2. 2.Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (LabMET), Faculty of Bioscience EngineeringUniversity GhentGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Microbiology Department, School of Science and School of ChemistryUniversity of the RepublicMontevideoUruguay

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