This paper reviews recent results obtained on long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) anaerobic degradation. Two LCFA were used as model substrates: oleate, a mono-unsaturated LCFA, and palmitate, a saturated LCFA, both abundant in LCFA-rich wastewaters. 16S rRNA gene analysis of sludge samples submitted to continuous oleate- and palmitate-feeding followed by batch degradation of the accumulated LCFA demonstrated that bacterial communities were dominated by members of the Clostridiaceae and Syntrophomonadaceae families. Archaeal populations were mainly comprised of hydrogen-consuming microorganisms belonging to the genus Methanobacterium, and acetate-utilizers from the genera Methanosaeta and Methanosarcina. Enrichment cultures growing on oleate and palmitate, in the absence or presence of sulfate, gave more insight into the major players involved in the degradation of unsaturated and saturated LCFA. Syntrophomonas-related species were identified as predominant microorganisms in all the enrichment cultures. Microorganisms clustering within the family Syntrophobacteraceae were identified in the methanogenic and sulfate-reducing enrichments growing on palmitate. Distinct bacterial consortia were developed in oleate and palmitate enrichments, and observed differences might be related to the different degrees of saturation of these two LCFA. A new obligately syntrophic bacterium, Syntrophomonas zehnderi, was isolated from an oleate-degrading culture and its presence in oleate-degrading sludges detected by 16S rRNA gene cloning and sequencing.

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