Genome-centric metatranscriptomes and ecological roles of the active microbial populations during cellulosic biomass anaerobic digestion

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Original languageEnglish
Article number117
Journal / PublicationBiotechnology for Biofuels
Online published23 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018



Background : Although anaerobic digestion for biogas production is used worldwide in treatment processes to recover energy from carbon-rich waste such as cellulosic biomass, the activities and interactions among the microbial populations that perform anaerobic digestion deserve further investigations, especially at the population genome level. To understand the cellulosic biomass-degrading potentials in two full-scale digesters, this study examined five methanogenic enrichment cultures derived from the digesters that anaerobically digested cellulose or xylan for more than 2 years under 35 or 55 °C conditions.

Results : Metagenomics and metatranscriptomics were used to capture the active microbial populations in each enrichment culture and reconstruct their meta-metabolic network and ecological roles. 107 population genomes were reconstructed from the five enrichment cultures using a differential coverage binning approach, of which only a subset was highly transcribed in the metatranscriptomes. Phylogenetic and functional convergence of communities by enrichment condition and phase of fermentation was observed for the highly transcribed populations in the metatranscriptomes. In the 35 °C cultures grown on cellulose, Clostridium cellulolyticum-related and Ruminococcus-related bacteria were identified as major hydrolyzers and primary fermenters in the early growth phase, while Clostridium leptum-related bacteria were major secondary fermenters and potential fatty acid scavengers in the late growth phase. While the meta-metabolism and trophic roles of the cultures were similar, the bacterial populations performing each function were distinct between the enrichment conditions.

Conclusions : Overall, a population genome-centric view of the meta-metabolism and functional roles of key active players in anaerobic digestion of cellulosic biomass was obtained. This study represents a major step forward towards understanding the microbial functions and interactions at population genome level during the microbial conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to methane. The knowledge of this study can facilitate development of potential biomarkers and rational design of the microbiome in anaerobic digesters.

Research Area(s)

  • Anaerobic digestion, Ecological roles, Lignocellulosic biomass, Metagenomics, Metatranscriptomics

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