Characterization of microbial communities in anaerobic acidification reactors fed with casein and/or lactose

Zhe Deng*, Ana Lucia Morgado Ferreira, Henri Spanjers, Jules B. van Lier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract: Protein-rich agro-industrial waste streams are high in organic load and represent a major environmental problem. Anaerobic digestion is an established technology to treat these streams; however, retardation of protein degradation is frequently observed when carbohydrates are present. This study investigated the mechanism of the retardation by manipulating the carbon source fed to a complex anaerobic microbiota and linking the reactor performance to the variation of the microbial community. Two anaerobic acidification reactors were first acclimated either to casein (CAS reactor) or lactose (LAC reactor), and then fed with mixtures of casein and lactose. Results showed that when lactose was present, the microbial community acclimated to casein shifted from mainly Chloroflexi to Proteobacteria and Firmicutes, the degree of deamination in the CAS reactor decreased from 77 to 15%, and the VFA production decreased from 75 to 34% of the effluent COD. A decrease of 75% in protease activity and 90% in deamination activity of the microbiota was also observed. The microorganisms that can ferment both proteins and carbohydrates were predominant in the microbial community, and from a thermodynamical point of view, they consumed carbohydrates prior to proteins. The frequently observed negative effect of carbohydrates on protein degradation can be mainly attributed to the substrate preference of these populations. Keypoints: • The presence of lactose shifted the microbial community and retarded anaerobic protein degradation. • Facultative genera were dominant in the presence and absence of lactose. • Substrate-preference caused retardation of anaerobic protein degradation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6301-6316
Number of pages16
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Carbohydrates–proteins
  • Microbial community
  • Protein degraders
  • Protein-rich waste


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