Impact of Fixed Nitrogen Availability on Dehalococcoides mccartyi Reductive Dechlorination Activity


Devrim Kaya, Birthe V. Kjellerup, Karuna Chourney, Robert L. Hettich, Dora M. Taggart


Biostimulation to promote reductive dechlorination is widely practiced, but the value of adding an exogenous nitrogen (N) source (e.g., NH4+) during treatment is unclear. This study investigates the effect of NH4+ availability on organohalide-respiring Dehalococcoides mccartyi (Dhc) growth and reductive dechlorination in enrichment cultures derived from groundwater (PW4) and river sediment (TC) impacted with chlorinated ethenes. In PW4 cultures, the addition of NH4+ increased cis-1,2-dichloroethene (cDCE)-to-ethene dechlorination rates about 5-fold (20.6 ± 1.6 versus 3.8 ± 0.5 μM Cl d-1), and the total number of Dhc 16S rRNA gene copies were about 43-fold higher in incubations with NH4+ ((1.8 ± 0.9) × 108 mL-1) compared to incubations without NH4+ ((4.1 ± 0.8) × 107 mL-1). In TC cultures, NH4+ also stimulated cDCE-to-ethene dechlorination and Dhc growth. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) revealed that Cornell-type Dhc capable of N2fixation dominated PW4 cultures without NH4+, but their relative abundance decreased in cultures with NH4+ amendment (i.e., 99 versus 54% of total Dhc). Pinellas-type Dhc incapable of N2 fixation were responsible for cDCE dechlorination in TC cultures, and diazotrophic community members met their fixed N requirement in the medium without NH4+. Responses to NH4+ were apparent at the community level, and N2-fixing bacterial populations increased in incubations without NH4+. Quantitative assessment of Dhc nitrogenase genes, transcripts, and proteomics data linked Cornell-type Dhc nifD and nifK expression with fixed N limitation. NH4+ additions also demonstrated positive effects on Dhc in situ dechlorination activity in the vicinity of well PW4. These findings demonstrate that biostimulation with NH4+ can enhance Dhc reductive dechlorination rates; however, a “do nothing” approach that relies on indigenous diazotrophs can achieve similar dechlorination end points and avoids the potential for stalled dechlorination due to inhibitory levels of NH4+ or transformation products (i.e., nitrous oxide).

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Kaya D, Kjellerup BV, Chourey K, Hettich RL, Taggart DM, Löffler FE. 2019. Impact of fixed nitrogen availability on Dehalococcoides mccartyi reductive dechlorination activity. Environmental Science & Technology 10.1021/acs.est.9b04463.