Molecular Ecology of Anaerobic Reactor Systems

  • J. Hofman-Bang
  • D. Zheng
  • P. Westermann
  • B. K. Ahring
  • L. Raskin
Part of the Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology book series (ABE, volume 81)


Anaerobic reactor systems are essential for the treatment of solid and liquid wastes and constitute a core facility in many waste treatment plants. Although much is known about the basic metabolism in different types of anaerobic reactors, little is known about the microbes responsible for these processes. Only a few percent of Bacteria and Archaea have so far been isolated, and almost nothing is known about the dynamics and interactions between these and other microorganisms. This lack of knowledge is most clearly exemplified by the sometimes unpredictable and unexplainable failures and malfunctions of anaerobic digesters occasionally experienced, leading to sub-optimal methane production and wastewater treatment.

Using a variety of molecular techniques, we are able to determine which microorganisms are active, where they are active, and when they are active, but we still need to determine why and what they are doing. As genetic manipulations of anaerobes have been shown in only a few species permitting in-situ gene expression studies, the only way to elucidate the function of different microbes is to correlate the metabolic capabilities of isolated microbes in pure culture to the abundance of each microbe in anaerobic reactor systems by rRNA probing.

This chapter focuses on various molecular techniques employed and problems encountered when elucidating the microbial ecology of anaerobic reactor systems. Methods such as quantitative dot blot/fluorescence in-situ probing using various specific nucleic acid probes are discussed and exemplified by studies of anaerobic granular sludge, biofilm and digester systems.


rRNA rDNA PCR Biofilm UASB Granular sludge 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Hofman-Bang
    • 1
  • D. Zheng
    • 2
  • P. Westermann
    • 1
  • B. K. Ahring
    • 1
  • L. Raskin
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology, Biocentrum DTUThe Technical University of DenmarkLyngbyDenmark
  2. 2.Alpha Therapeutic CorporationLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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