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Benzoate-driven dehalogenation of chlorinated ethenes in microbial cultures from a contaminated aquifer


Microbial dehalogenation of tetrachloroethene (PCE) and cis-dichloroethene (cis-DCE) was studied in cultures from a continuous stirred tank reactor initially inoculated with aquifer material from a PCE-contaminated site. Cultures amended with hydrogen and acetate readily dechlorinated PCE and cis-DCE; however, this transformation was incomplete and resulted in the accumulation of chlorinated intermediates and only small amounts of ethene within 60 days of incubation. Conversely, microbial PCE and cis-DCE dechlorination in cultures with benzoate and acetate resulted in the complete transformation to ethene within 30 days. Community fingerprinting by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) revealed the predominance of phylotypes closely affiliated with Desulfitobacterium, Dehalococcoides, and Syntrophus species. The Dehalococcoides culture VZ, obtained from small whitish colonies in cis-DCE dechlorinating agarose cultures, revealed an irregular cell diameter between 200 and 500 nm, and a spherical or biconcave disk-shaped morphology. These organisms were identified as responsible for the dechlorination of cis-DCE to ethene in the PCE-dechlorinating consortia, operating together with the Desulfitobacterium as PCE-to-cis-DCE dehalogenating bacterium and with a Syntrophus species as potential hydrogen-producing partner in cultures with benzoate.

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We thank Ivonne Nijenhuis for providing a pure culture of Dehalococcoides ethenogenes 195, the Alfred Spormann group for providing a culture containing strain VS, and the group of Rudi Amann, with special thanks to Jörg Wulf, for introducing us to the CARD FISH method.

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Correspondence to Michael Bunge.

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Bunge, M., Kleikemper, J., Miniaci, C. et al. Benzoate-driven dehalogenation of chlorinated ethenes in microbial cultures from a contaminated aquifer. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 76, 1447–1456 (2007).

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  • Reductive dechlorination
  • PCE
  • Benzoate
  • Dehalococcoides
  • Desulfitobacterium
  • Syntrophus