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Microbial rRNA gene expression and co-occurrence profiles associate with biokinetics and elemental composition in full-scale anaerobic digesters

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Abstract

This study examined whether the abundance and expression of microbial 16S rRNA genes were associated with elemental concentrations and substrate conversion biokinetics in 20 full-scale anaerobic digesters, including seven municipal sewage sludge (SS) digesters and 13 industrial codigesters. SS digester contents had higher methane production rates from acetate, propionate and phenyl acetate compared to industrial codigesters. SS digesters and industrial codigesters were distinctly clustered based on their elemental concentrations, with higher concentrations of NH3-N, Cl, K and Na observed in codigesters. Amplicon sequencing of 16S rRNA genes and reverse-transcribed 16S rRNA revealed divergent grouping of microbial communities between mesophilic SS digesters, mesophilic codigesters and thermophilic digesters. Higher intradigester distances between Archaea 16S rRNA and rRNA gene profiles were observed in mesophilic codigesters, which also had the lowest acetate utilization biokinetics. Constrained ordination showed that microbial rRNA and rRNA gene profiles were significantly associated with maximum methane production rates from acetate, propionate, oleate and phenyl acetate, as well as concentrations of NH3-N, Fe, S, Mo and Ni. A co-occurrence network of rRNA gene expression confirmed the three main clusters of anaerobic digester communities based on active populations. Syntrophic and methanogenic taxa were highly represented within the subnetworks, indicating that obligate energy-sharing partnerships play critical roles in stabilizing the digester microbiome. Overall, these results provide new evidence showing that different feed substrates associate with different micronutrient compositions in anaerobic digesters, which in turn may influence microbial abundance, activity and function.

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Ziels, R. M., Svensson, B. H., Sundberg, C., Larsson, M., Karlsson, A., & Yekta, S. S. (2018). Microbial rRNA gene expression and co-occurrence profiles associate with biokinetics and elemental composition in full-scale anaerobic digesters. Microbial Biotechnology, 11(4), 694–709. https://doi.org/10.1111/1751-7915.13264

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