Microbial community structure plays a significant role in environmental assessment and animal health management. The development of a superior analytical strategy for the characterization of microbial community structure is an ongoing challenge. In this study, we developed an effective supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) and ultra performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) method for the analysis of bacterial respiratory quinones (RQ) in environmental and biological samples. RQ profile analysis is one of the most widely used culture-independent tools for characterizing microbial community structure. A UPLC equipped with a photo diode array (PDA) detector was successfully applied to the simultaneous determination of ubiquinones (UQ) and menaquinones (MK) without tedious pretreatment. Supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2) extraction with the solid-phase cartridge trap proved to be a more effective and rapid method for extracting respiratory quinones, compared to a conventional organic solvent extraction method. This methodology leads to a successful analytical procedure that involves a significant reduction in the complexity and sample preparation time. Application of the optimized methodology to characterize microbial communities based on the RQ profile was demonstrated for a variety of environmental samples (activated sludge, digested sludge, and compost) and biological samples (swine and Japanese quail feces).
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