Two hydrogen-producing continuous flow stirred tank reactors (CSTRs) fed respectively with glucose and sucrose were investigated by polymerase chain reaction-denatured gradient gel electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE) and fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH). The substrate was fed in a continuous mode decreased from hydraulic retention time (HRT) 10 hours to 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2 hours. Quantitative fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH) observations further demonstrated that two morphotypes of bacteria dominated both microbial communities. One was long rod bacteria which can be targeted either by Chis150 probe designed to hybridize the gram positive low G + C bacteria or the specific oligonucleotide probe Lg10-6. The probe Lg10-6, affiliated with Clostridium pasteurianum, was designed and then checked with other reference organisms. The other type, unknown group, which cannot be detected by Chis150 was curved rod bacteria. Notably, the population ratios of the two predominant groups reflected the different operational performance of the two reactors, such as hydrogen producing rates, substrate turnover rates and metabolites compositions. Therefore, a competition mode of the two dominant bacteria groups was hypothesized. In the study, 16S rRNA-based gene library of hydrogen-producing microbial communities was established. The efficiency of hydrogen yields was correlated with substrates (glucose or sucrose), HRT, metabolites compositions (acetate, propionate, butyrate and ethanol), thermal pre-treatment (seed biomass was heated at 100°C for 45 minutes), and microbial communities in the bioreactor, not sludge sources (municipal sewage sludge, alcohol-processing sludge, or bean-processing sludge). The designed specific oligonucleotide probe Lg10-6 also provides us a useful and fast molecular tool to screen hydrogen-producing microbial communities in the future research.

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