Microbial communities involved in anaerobic degradation of unsaturated or saturated long chain fatty acids

D.Z. Sousa, M.A. Pereira, A.J.M. Stams, M.M. Alves, H. Smidt

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100 Citations (Scopus)


Anaerobic long-chain fatty acid (LCFA)-degrading bacteria were identified by combining selective enrichment studies with molecular approaches. Two distinct enrichment cultures growing on unsaturated and saturated LCFAs were obtained by successive transfers in medium containing oleate and palmitate, respectively, as the sole carbon and energy sources. Changes in the microbial composition during enrichment were analyzed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) profiling of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA gene fragments. Prominent DGGE bands of the enrichment cultures were identified by 16S rRNA gene sequencing. A significant part of the retrieved 16S rRNA gene sequences was most similar to those of uncultured bacteria. Bacteria corresponding to predominant DGGE bands in oleate and palmitate enrichment cultures clustered with fatty acid-oxidizing bacteria within Syntrophomonadaceae and Syntrophobacteraceae families. A low methane yield, corresponding to 9 to 18% of the theoretical value, was observed in the oleate enrichment, and acetate, produced according to the expected stoichiometry, was not further converted to methane. In the palmitate enrichment culture, the acetate produced was completely mineralized and a methane yield of 48 to 70% was achieved from palmitate degradation. Furthermore, the oleate enrichment culture was able to use palmitate without detectable changes in the DGGE profile. However, the palmitate-specialized consortia degraded oleate only after a lag phase of 3 months, after which the DGGE profile had changed. Two predominant bands appeared, and sequence analysis showed affiliation with the Syntrophomonas genus. These bands were also present in the oleate enrichment culture, suggesting that these bacteria are directly involved in oleate degradation, emphasizing possible differences between the degradation of unsaturated and saturated LCFAs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1054-1064
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • sp-nov
  • methanogenic bacteria
  • oleic-acid
  • syntrophobacter-wolinii
  • syntrophic bacterium
  • enrichment culture
  • granular sludge
  • sp. nov.
  • gen-nov
  • coculture


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