Quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) has become a popular method for estimation of methanogen abundance in the ruminant digestive tract. However, there is no established method in terms of primer choice and quantification, which means that results are variable and not directly comparable between studies. Archaeol has been proposed as an alternative marker for methanogen abundance, as it is ubiquitous in methanogenic Archaea, and can be quantified by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS). The aim of this experiment was to compare total methanogen populations estimated using the new archaeol approach with estimates based on qPCR. Specific primer sets and probes were used to detect dominant ruminal methanogen species Methanobrevibacter ruminantium, Methanobrevibacter smithii, Methanosphaera stadtmanae, and total methanogen populations. There was variation in the relationships among total methanogen abundance estimates based on archaeol and qPCR. In addition, the universal methanogen primers appeared to preferentially amplify genes from M. smithii. Archaeol had the strongest relationship with the dominant rumen methanogen M. ruminantium, whereas the total methanogen primers had a comparatively weak relationship with archaeol. Archaeol analysis was a useful adjunct to molecular biology methods, but it seems that a valid specific primer for M. ruminantium would be more useful than a biased primer for total methanogens.
McCartney, C. A., Bull, I. D., Waters, S. M., & Dewhurst, R. J. (2013). Technical note: Comparison of biomarker and molecular biological methods for estimating methanogen abundance. Journal of Animal Science, 91(12), 5724-5728. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas.2013-6513