Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

, Volume 68, Issue 4, pp 297–308 | Cite as

Characterization of microbial communities in anaerobic bioreactors using molecular probes

  • Lutgarde Raskin
  • Dandan Zheng
  • Matt E. Griffin
  • Peter G. Stroot
  • Pavitra Misra


The microbial community structure of twenty-one single-phase and one two-phase full-scale anaerobic sewage sludge digesters was evaluated using oligonucleotide probes complementary to conserved tracts of the 16S rRNAs of phylogenetically defined groups of methanogens and sulfate-reducing bacteria. These probe results were interpreted in combination with results from traditional chemical analyses and metabolic activity assays. It was determined that methanogens in “healthy” mesophilic, single-phase sewage sludge digesters accounted for approximately 8–12% of the total community and thatMethanosarcinales andMethanomicrobiales constituted the majority of the total methanogen population.Methanobacteriales andMethanococcales played a relatively minor role in the digesters. Phylogenetic groups of mesophilic, Gram-negative sulfate-reducing bacteria were consistently present at significant levels:Desulfovibrio andDesulfobulbus spp. were the dominant sulfate-reducing populations,Desulfobacter andDesulfobacterium spp. were present at lower levels, andDesulfosarcina, Desulfococcus, andDesulfobotulus spp. were absent. Sulfate reduction by one or more of these populations played a significant role in all digesters evaluated in this study. In addition, sulfate-reducing bacteria played a role in favoring methanogenesis by providing their substrates. The analysis of the two-phase digester indicated that true phase separation was not accomplished: significant levels of active methanogens were present in the first phase. It was determined that the dominant populations in the second phase were different from those in the single-phase digesters.

Key words

Anaerobic digesters methanogens oligonucleotide probes 16s rRNA sulfate-reducing bacteria two-phase digestion 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lutgarde Raskin
    • 1
  • Dandan Zheng
    • 1
  • Matt E. Griffin
    • 1
  • Peter G. Stroot
    • 1
  • Pavitra Misra
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Engineering and Science, Department of Civil EngineeringUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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