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Unraveling Anaerobic Digestion using Single cell and Long Read Sequencing

Project description

Profiling individual bacterial cells could help us increase methane production

When microorganisms feed on organic materials in the absence of oxygen or air, their digestive processes (called anaerobic digestion) produce biogas, which is mostly methane. Harnessing microbes to make fuels for us from our organic waste supports our transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner forms of energy and fewer emissions. However, bacteria need some help to make fuels in the quantities that result in cost-effective processes worthy of investment. The EU-funded UnrAD project is using high-tech single-cell genetics approaches to characterise different members of the bacterial community. Finding specialisations and interactions relevant to methane production could help us help them boost yield.


Anaerobic digestion, a technology able to use waste residuals to produce clean renewable energy in form of methane, is a powerful tool to revert the unequivocal environmental deterioration and represent one of the clearest examples of how research and innovation can turn undesirable residual like waste into an ecological and economical asset. Recent advances made feasible the process at ambient temperature, feasibility that might increase the net production since does not need heat supplementation. Among the different trace metals involved in the anaerobic degradation processes, cobalt has been shown one of the most important since it acts as a cofactor for enzymes involved in the metabolic pathways of the methanogenesis from acetate. Therefore an adequate balance of cobalt could improve the anaerobic biological response, enhancing the rate and yield of methane. High throughput single-cell transcriptomic and third generation sequencing provide an unprecedented opportunity to understand the mechanisms inducing this enhanced yield. The first allows trancriptome analysis at the level of individual cells giving the possibility to understand the interplay of transcripts within single organisms, the specialization of different members from the community or the heterogeneity in term of transcriptomic status of every species while the second enable the possibility recover full length transcripts increasing resolution. The overall objective of UnrAD is to employ these two cutting-edge technologies combined to study the role of temperature and cobalt supplementation in anaerobic digestion and identify specializations and interactions among the different bacterial community members. The findings from this project would lead to a more efficient anaerobic digestion and will be beneficial for the to the industries in the field and the whole society.



Net EU contribution
€ 172 932,48
Calle serrano 117
28006 Madrid

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Comunidad de Madrid Comunidad de Madrid Madrid
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00