How to use molecular biology tools for the study of the anaerobic digestion process?

  • Angela Cabezas
  • Juliana Calabria de Araujo
  • Cecilia Callejas
  • Amandine Galès
  • Jérôme Hamelin
  • Antonella Marone
  • Diana Z. Sousa
  • Eric Trably
  • Claudia Etchebehere
Review paper


Anaerobic digestion is used with success for the treatment of solid waste, urban and industrial effluents with a concomitant energy production. The process is robust and stable, but the complexity of the microbial community involved in the process is not yet fully comprehensive. Nowadays, the study of this complex ecosystem is facilitated by the availability of different molecular tools, but it is very important to choose the adequate tool to answer specific questions. The aim of this review is to describe different molecular techniques, indicate the questions that can be addressed by each technique, enumerate their limitations and give practical advices for their use. Examples of how the molecular tools have been used to address various questions in anaerobic digestion are presented. The key point now is to apply all this information to improve anaerobic digestion. The integration of concepts of microbial-ecology, environmental-engineering, modeling and bioinformatics is currently necessary.


Anaerobic digestion Bioreactor Molecular biology Microbial ecology Function Microbial resource management 



Anaerobic digestion


Analysis of similarity


Analysis of variance


Amplified ribosomal DNA restriction analysis


2-Bromoethanesulphonic acid


Biorthogonal non-canonical amino acid tagging


Capillary electrophoresis Single Strand Conformation Polymorphism


Canonical correspondence analysis


Confocal laser scanning microscopy


Copy number variation


Direct interspecies electron transfer


Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis


Desoxyribo nucleic acid


Expanded granular sludge blanket


Fluorescent in situ hybridization


Hydrogen interspecies transfer


Micro auto radiographic fluorescent in situ hybridization


Nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry


Next generation sequencing


Nonmetric multidimentional scaling


Non parametric multivariate ANOVA


Organic loading rate


Operational taxonomic unit


Principal component analysis


Principal coordinate analysis


Polymerase chain reaction


Quantitative polymerase chain reaction


Ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis


Ribo nucleic acid


Ribosomal RNA


Syntrophic acetate oxidizers


Secondary ion mass spectrometry combined with FISH


Stable isotope probing


Single Strand Conformation Polymorphism


Single strand DNA


Terminal-Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism


Terminal-Restriction Fragment


Upflow anaerobic sludge blanket


Volatile suspended solids


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angela Cabezas
    • 1
    • 2
  • Juliana Calabria de Araujo
    • 3
  • Cecilia Callejas
    • 1
    • 4
  • Amandine Galès
    • 6
  • Jérôme Hamelin
    • 6
  • Antonella Marone
    • 6
  • Diana Z. Sousa
    • 5
  • Eric Trably
    • 6
  • Claudia Etchebehere
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratorio de Ecología Microbiana, Departamento de Bioquímica y Genómica MicrobianaInstituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente EstableMontevideoUruguay
  2. 2.Laboratorio de Biotecnología, Facultad de IngenieríaUniversidad ORT UruguayMontevideoUruguay
  3. 3.Departamento de Engenharia Sanitária e AmbientalUniversidade Federal de Minas GeraisBelo HorizonteBrazil
  4. 4.Laboratorio de Bioprocesos Ambientales, Institutito de Ingeniería Química, Facultad de IngenieríaUniversidad de la RepúblicaMontevideoUruguay
  5. 5.Laboratory of MicrobiologyWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Laboratoire de Biotechnologie de l’EnvironnementINRA, UR0050NarbonneFrance

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