Assessment of hydrogen metabolism in commercial anaerobic digesters

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Tobias Kern - , TUD Dresden University of Technology (Author)
  • Juliane Theiss - , Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig (Author)
  • Kerstin Röske - , Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig (Author)
  • Michael Rother - , TUD Dresden University of Technology (Author)


Degradation of biomass in the absence of exogenous electron acceptors via anaerobic digestion involves a syntrophic association of a plethora of anaerobic microorganisms. The commercial application of this process is the large-scale production of biogas from renewable feedstock as an alternative to fossil fuels. After hydrolysis of polymers, monomers are fermented to short-chain fatty acids and alcohols, which are further oxidized to acetate. Carbon dioxide, molecular hydrogen (H2), and acetate generated during the process are converted to methane by methanogenic archaea. Since many of the metabolic pathways as well as the syntrophic interactions and dependencies during anaerobic digestion involve formation, utilization, or transfer of H2, its metabolism and the methanogenic population were assessed in various samples from three commercial biogas plants. Addition of H2 significantly increased the rate of methane formation, which suggested that hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis is not a rate-limiting step during biogas formation. Methanoculleus and Methanosarcina appeared to numerically dominate the archaeal population of the three digesters, but their proportion and the Bacteria-to-Archaea ratio did not correlate with the methane productivity. Instead, hydrogenase activity in cell-free extracts from digester sludge correlated with methane productivity in a positive fashion. Since most microorganisms involved in biogas formation contain this activity, it approximates the overall anaerobic metabolic activity and may, thus, be suitable for monitoring biogas reactor performance.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4699-4710
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016
Externally publishedYes

External IDs

PubMed 26995607


Sustainable Development Goals


  • Anaerobic digestion, Biogas, Diversity, Hydrogen, Hydrogenase