Characterization of the methanogenic Archaea within two-phase biogas reactor systems operated with plant biomass

Michael Klocke, Edith Nettmann, Ingo Bergmann, Kerstin Mundt, Khadidja Souidi, Jan Mumme, Bernd Linke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The two-phase leach-bed system is a biogas reactor system optimized for the utilization of energy crop silages at maximized loading rates under maintenance of an optimal microbial activity. In this study, a characterization of the methanogenic microbial community within this reactor system was conducted for the first time. Accordingly, effluent samples from the anaerobic filter and the silage digesting leach-bed reactors of both a laboratory-scale two-phase biogas reactor system and a scaled-up commercial on-farm pilot plant were investigated. In total, five Archaea-specific 16S rDNA libraries were constructed and analyzed by amplified rDNA restriction analysis (ARDRA), with subsequent phylogenetic analysis of nucleotide sequences for individual ARDRA patterns. A quantification of major methanogenic Archaea groups was conducted by real-time PCR. A total of 663 clones were analyzed and 45 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) related to methanogenic Archaea were detected. These OTUs were related to the orders Methanosarcinales, Methanomicrobiales and Methanobacteriales, as well as the hitherto uncultured CA-11 and ARC-I groups, and most of them occurred throughout all the compartments of both two-phase biogas reactors. The proportion of acetotrophic to hydrogenotrophic methanogens differed between the laboratory and the pilot scale system. A total of 56% of the clones from the 16S rDNA library derived from the laboratory biogas system were assigned to presumably acetotrophic members of Methanosarcinales. In contrast, these OTUs were less abundant in the 16S rDNA library derived from samples of the pilot plant. Therein, the most dominant OTUs were Methanoculleus-related OTUs, which presumably indicated the predominant presence of hydrogenotrophic methanogens. These findings were confirmed by group-specific quantitative real-time PCR assays. The results indicated that the fraction of acetotrophic and hydrogenotrophic methanogens within a biogas reactor caused certain variations, which may reflect varying substrate utilization during methanogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-205
Number of pages16
JournalSystematic and Applied Microbiology
Issue number3
Early online date22 May 2008
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2008


  • 16S rDNA clone library
  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Anaerobic filter
  • Archaea
  • Leach-bed reactor
  • Methanogens
  • Two-phase biogas system

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