The microbial communities established in mesophilic and thermophilic expanded granular sludge bed reactors operated with sulfate as the electron acceptor were analyzed using 16S rRNA targeted molecular methods, including denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, cloning, and phylogenetic analysis. Bacterial and archaeal communities were examined over 450 days of operation treating ethanol (thermophilic reactor) or ethanol and later a simulated semiconductor manufacturing wastewater containing citrate, isopropanol, and polyethylene glycol 300 (mesophilic reactor), with and without the addition of copper(II). Analysis, of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA gene fragments using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis revealed a defined shift in microbial diversity in both reactors following a change in substrate composition (mesophilic reactor) and in temperature of operation from 30 degrees C to 55 degrees C (thermophilic reactor). The addition of copper(II) to the influent of both reactors did not noticeably affect the composition of the bacterial or archaeal communities, which is in agreement with the very low soluble copper concentrations (3-310 mu g l(-1)) present in the reactor contents as a consequence of extensive precipitation of copper with biogenic sulfides. Furthermore, clone library analysis confirmed the phylogenetic diversity of sulfate-reducing consortia in mesophilic and thermophilic sulfidogenic reactors operated with simple substrates.