Selective Enrichment Yields Robust Ethene-Producing Dechlorinating Cultures from Microcosms Stalled at cis-Dichloroethene
Dehalococcoides mccartyi strains are of particular importance for bioremediation due to their unique capability of transforming perchloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE) to non-toxic ethene, through the intermediates cis-dichloroethene (cis-DCE) and vinyl chloride (VC). Despite the widespread environmental distribution of Dehalococcoides, biostimulation sometimes fails to promote dechlorination beyond cis-DCE. In our study, microcosms established with garden soil and mangrove sediment also stalled at cis-DCE, albeit Dehalococcoides mccartyi containing the reductive dehalogenase genes tceA, vcrA and bvcA were detected in the soil/sediment inocula. Reductive dechlorination was not promoted beyond cis-DCE, even after multiple biostimulation events with fermentable substrates and a lengthy incubation. However, transfers from microcosms stalled at cis-DCE yielded dechlorination to ethene with subsequent enrichment cultures containing up to 10[superscript 9] Dehalococcoides mccartyi cells mL[superscript −1]. Proteobacterial classes which dominated the soil/sediment communities became undetectable in the enrichments, and methanogenic activity drastically decreased after the transfers. We hypothesized that biostimulation of Dehalococcoides in the cis-DCE-stalled microcosms was impeded by other microbes present at higher abundances than Dehalococcoides and utilizing terminal electron acceptors from the soil/sediment, hence, outcompeting Dehalococcoides for H[subscript 2]. In support of this hypothesis, we show that garden soil and mangrove sediment microcosms bioaugmented with their respective cultures containing Dehalococcoides in high abundance were able to compete for H[subscript 2] for reductive dechlorination from one biostimulation event and produced ethene with no obvious stall. Overall, our results provide an alternate explanation to consolidate conflicting observations on the ubiquity of Dehalococcoides mccartyi and occasional stalling of dechlorination at cis-DCE; thus, bringing a new perspective to better assess biological potential of different environments and to understand microbial interactions governing bioremediation.