Cultivation-independent molecular approaches were used to investigate the phylogenetic composition of Archaea and the relative abundance of phylogenetically defined groups of methanogens in the leachate of a closed municipal solid waste landfill. Cloning and phylogenetic analysis of archaeal 16S rRNA gene sequences (16S rDNA) revealed that the landfill leachate harbored a diverse Archaea community, with sequence types distributed within the two archaeal kingdoms of the Euryarchaeota and the Crenarchaeota. Of the 80 clones examined, 51 were phylogenetically associated with well-defined methanogen lineages covering two major methanogenic phenotypes; 20 were related to Thermoplasma and were grouped with some novel archaeal rRNA gene sequences recently recovered from various anaerobic habitats; finally, five belonged to Crenarchaeota and were not closely related to any hitherto cultivated species. Most of the methanogen-like clones were affiliated with the hydrogenotrophic Methanomicrobiales and the methylotrophic and acetoclastic Methanosarcinales. Quantitative oligonucleotide hybridization experiments showed that methanogens in the leachate accounted for only a very small fraction of the total community (approximately 2%) and that Methanomicrobiales and Methanosarcinales constituted the majority of the total methanogenic population. © 2003 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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