Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 97, Issue 3, pp 1299–1315 | Cite as

Alteration of bacterial communities and organic matter in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) supplied with soil and organic fertilizer

  • Stefano Mocali
  • Carlo Galeffi
  • Elena Perrin
  • Alessandro Florio
  • Melania Migliore
  • Francesco Canganella
  • Giovanna Bianconi
  • Elena Di Mattia
  • Maria Teresa Dell’Abate
  • Renato Fani
  • Anna Benedetti
Environmental biotechnology


The alteration of the organic matter (OM) and the composition of bacterial community in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) supplied with soil (S) and a composted organic fertilizer (A) was examined at the beginning and at the end of 3 weeks of incubation under current-producing as well as no-current-producing conditions. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis revealed a significant alteration of the microbial community structure in MFCs generating electricity as compared with no-current-producing MFCs. The genetic diversity of cultivable bacterial communities was assessed by random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis of 106 bacterial isolates obtained by using both generic and elective media. Sequencing of the 16S rRNA genes of the more representative RAPD groups indicated that over 50.4% of the isolates from MFCs fed with S were Proteobacteria, 25.1% Firmicutes, and 24.5% Actinobacteria, whereas in MFCs supplied with A 100% of the dominant species belonged to γ-Proteobacteria. The chemical analysis performed by fractioning the OM and using thermal analysis showed that the amount of total organic carbon contained in the soluble phase of the electrochemically active chambers significantly decreased as compared to the no-current-producing systems, whereas the OM of the solid phase became more humified and aromatic along with electricity generation, suggesting a significant stimulation of a humification process of the OM. These findings demonstrated that electroactive bacteria are commonly present in aerobic organic substrates such as soil or a fertilizer and that MFCs could represent a powerful tool for exploring the mineralization and humification processes of the soil OM.


Microbial fuel cells Soil Organic matter Electrogenic bacteria Microbial diversity Humification 



This research was supported with funds from the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food, and Forestry Policies (MIPAAF) and it is part of the results of the BEM project (D.M. 247/07).

Supplementary material

253_2012_3906_MOESM1_ESM.ppt (140 kb)
Additional file 1 Phylogenetic trees (all samples) (PPT 140 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefano Mocali
    • 1
    • 2
  • Carlo Galeffi
    • 2
  • Elena Perrin
    • 3
  • Alessandro Florio
    • 2
  • Melania Migliore
    • 2
  • Francesco Canganella
    • 4
  • Giovanna Bianconi
    • 4
  • Elena Di Mattia
    • 5
  • Maria Teresa Dell’Abate
    • 2
  • Renato Fani
    • 3
  • Anna Benedetti
    • 2
  1. 1.CRA—Agrobiology and Pedology Research CentreFirenzeItaly
  2. 2.CRA—Research Centre for the Soil–Plant SystemRomaItaly
  3. 3.Evolutionary Biology DepartmentUniversity of FlorenceFirenzeItaly
  4. 4.Department for Innovation in Biological, Agrofood and Forest systemsUniversity of TusciaViterboItaly
  5. 5.Department of Sciences and Technologies for Agriculture, Forest, Nature and EnergyUniversity of TusciaViterboItaly

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