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Polyphasic Analyses of Methanogenic Archaeal Communities in Agricultural Biogas Plants

Nettmann, E., Bergmann, I., Pramschüfer, S., Mundt, K., Plogsties, V., Herrmann, C., Klocke, M.
Applied and environmental microbiology 2010 v.76 no.8 pp. 2540-2548
Methanoculleus, Methanosaetaceae, ammonia, biogas, fluorescence in situ hybridization, genes, liquid manure, methane, methane production, nucleotide sequences, polymerase chain reaction, raw materials, ribosomal RNA
Knowledge of the microbial consortia participating in the generation of biogas, especially in methane formation, is still limited. To overcome this limitation, the methanogenic archaeal communities in six full-scale biogas plants supplied with different liquid manures and renewable raw materials as substrates were analyzed by a polyphasic approach. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) was carried out to quantify the methanogenic Archaea in the reactor samples. In addition, quantitative real-time PCR (Q-PCR) was used to support and complete the FISH analysis. Five of the six biogas reactors were dominated by hydrogenotrophic METHANOMICROBIALES: The average values were between 60 to 63% of archaeal cell counts (FISH) and 61 to 99% of archaeal 16S rRNA gene copies (Q-PCR). Within this order, Methanoculleus was found to be the predominant genus as determined by amplified rRNA gene restriction analysis. The aceticlastic family Methanosaetaceae was determined to be the dominant methanogenic group in only one biogas reactor, with average values for Q-PCR and FISH between 64% and 72%. Additionally, in three biogas reactors hitherto uncharacterized but potentially methanogenic species were detected. They showed closest accordance with nucleotide sequences of the hitherto unclassified CA-11 (85%) and ARC-I (98%) clusters. These results point to hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis as a predominant pathway for methane synthesis in five of the six analyzed biogas plants. In addition, a correlation between the absence of Methanosaetaceae in the biogas reactors and high concentrations of total ammonia (sum of NH₃ and NH₄⁺) was observed.