Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 101, Issue 3, pp 1313–1322 | Cite as

Microbial community changes in methanogenic granules during the transition from mesophilic to thermophilic conditions

  • Xinyu Zhu
  • Panagiotis G. Kougias
  • Laura Treu
  • Stefano Campanaro
  • Irini Angelidaki
Bioenergy and biofuels


Upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor is one of the most applied technologies for various high-strength wastewater treatments. The present study analysed the microbial community changes in UASB granules during the transition from mesophilic to thermophilic conditions. Dynamicity of microbial community in granules was analysed using high-throughput sequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA gene amplicons, and the results showed that the temperature strictly determines the diversity of the microbial consortium. It was demonstrated that most of the microbes which were present in the initial mesophilic community were not found in the granules after the transition to thermophilic conditions. More specifically, only members from family Anaerolinaceae managed to tolerate the temperature change and contributed in maintaining the physical integrity of granular structure. On the contrary, new hydrolytic and fermentative bacteria were quickly replacing the old members in the community. A direct result from this abrupt change in the microbial diversity was the accumulation of volatile fatty acids and the concomitant pH drop in the reactor inhibiting the overall anaerobic digestion process. Nevertheless, by maintaining deliberately the pH levels at values higher than 6.5, a methanogen belonging to Methanoculleus genus emerged in the community enhancing the methane production.


UASB Temperature Microbial community Granule structure 16S rRNA gene 



We thank Hector Garcia and Hector Diaz for technical assistance. X. Zhu acknowledges the financial support provided by the Integrated Water Technology (InWaTech) project, research collaboration between the Technical University of Denmark and the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (DTU-KAIST, This work was supported by the Danish Council for Strategic Research under the project “SYMBIO – Integration of biomass and wind power for biogas enhancement and upgrading via hydrogen assisted anaerobic digestion”, contract 12-132654. Illumina sequencing was performed at the Ramaciotti Centre for Genomics (Sydney, Australia).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

253_2016_8028_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (81 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 80 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xinyu Zhu
    • 1
  • Panagiotis G. Kougias
    • 1
  • Laura Treu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Stefano Campanaro
    • 3
  • Irini Angelidaki
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental EngineeringTechnical University of DenmarkKgs. LyngbyDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Agronomy, Food, Natural resources, Animal and Environment (DAFNAE)LegnaroItaly
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly

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