Mineralization Versus Fermentation: Evidence for Two Distinct Anaerobic Bacterial Degradation Pathways for Dichloromethane


Gao Chen, Alexander R. Fisch, Caleb M. Gibson, E. Erin Mack, Edward S. Seger, Shawn R. Campagna, Frank E. Löffler


Dichloromethane (DCM) is an anthropogenic pollutant with ozone destruction potential that is also formed naturally. Under anoxic conditions, fermentation of DCM to acetate and formate has been reported in axenic culture Dehalobacterium formicoaceticum, and to acetate, H2 and CO2 in mixed culture RM, which harbors the DCM degrader ‘Candidatus Dichloromethanomonas elyunquensis’. RM cultures produced 28.1 ± 2.3 μmol of acetate from 155.6 ± 9.3 μmol DCM, far less than the one third (i.e., about 51.9 µmol) predicted based on the assumed fermentation model, and observed in cultures of Dehalobacterium formicoaceticum. Temporal metabolite analyses using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy revealed that no 13C-labeled acetate was formed in 13C-DCM-grown RM cultures, indicating acetate was not a direct product of DCM metabolism. The data were reconciled with DCM mineralization and H2 consumption via CO2reduction to acetate and methane by homoacetogenic and methanogenic partner populations, respectively. In contrast, Dehalobacterium formicoaceticum produced 13C-labeled acetate and formate from 13C-DCM, consistent with a fermentation pathway. Free energy change calculations predicted that organisms with the mineralization pathway are the dominant DCM consumers in environments with H2 <100 ppmv. These findings have implications for carbon and electron flow in environments where DCM is introduced through natural production processes or anthropogenic activities.

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Chen G, Fisch AR, Gibson CM, Mack EE, Seger ES, Campagna SR, Loffler FE. 2020. Mineralization versus fermentation: Evidence for two distinct anaerobic bacterial degradation pathways for dichloromethane. ISME Journal doi:10.1038/s41396-019-0579-5.