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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

The microbial community structure in industrial biogas plants influences the degradation rate of straw and cellulose in batch tests

Sun, Li; Liu, Tong; Müller, Bettina; Schnürer, Anna


Background: Materials rich in lignocellulose, such as straw, are abundant, cheap and highly interesting for biogas production. However, the complex structure of lignocellulose is difficult for microbial cellulolytic enzymes to access, limiting degradation. The rate of degradation depends on the activity of members of the microbial community, but the knowledge of this community in the biogas process is rather limited. This study, therefore, investigated the degradation rate of cellulose and straw in batch cultivation test initiated with inoculums from four co-digestion biogas plants (CD) and six wastewater treatment plants (WWTP). The results were correlated to the bacterial community by 454-pyrosequencing targeting 16S rRNA gene and by T-RFLP analysis targeting genes of glycoside hydrolase families 5 (cel5) and 48 (cel48), combined with construction of clone librariesResults: UniFrac principal coordinate analysis of 16S rRNA gene amplicons revealed a clustering of WWTPs, while the CDs were more separated from each other. Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes dominated the community with a comparably higher abundance of the latter in the processes operating at high ammonia levels. Sequences obtained from the cel5 and cel 48 clone libraries were also mainly related to the phyla Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes and here ammonia was a parameter with a strong impact on the cel5 community. The results from the batch cultivation showed similar degradation pattern for eight of the biogas plants, while two characterised by high ammonia level and low bacterial diversity, showed a clear lower degradation rate. Interestingly, two T-RFs from the cel5 community were positively correlated to high degradation rates of both straw and cellulose. One of the respective partial cel5 sequences shared 100 % identity to Clostridium cellulolyticum.Conclusion: The degradation rate of cellulose and straw varied in the batch tests dependent on the origin of the inoculum and was negatively correlated with the ammonia level. The cellulose-degrading community, targeted by analysis of the glycoside hydrolase families 5 (cel5) and 48 (cel48), showed a dominance of bacteria belonging the Firmicutes and Bacteriodetes, and a positive correlation was found between the cellulose degradation rate of wheat straw with the level of C. cellulolyticum.


Biogas; Cellulose; Community composition; Glycoside hydrolases; cel48; cel5; Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP); Next generation amplicon sequencing

Published in

Biotechnology for Biofuels
2016, volume: 9, article number: 128

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Microbiology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Molecular Sciences
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Microbiology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Microbiology
Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)

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