Normalized Quantitative PCR Measurements as Predictors for Ethene Formation at Sites Impacted with Chlorinated Ethenes


Katherine Clark, Dora M. Taggart, Brett R. Baldwin, Kristi M. Ritalahti, Robert W. Murdoch, Janet K. Hatt, Frank E. Löffler


Quantitative PCR (qPCR) targeting Dehalococcoides mccartyi (Dhc) biomarker genes supports effective management at sites impacted with chlorinated ethenes. To establish correlations between Dhc biomarker gene abundances and ethene formation (i.e., detoxification), 859 groundwater samples representing 62 sites undergoing monitored natural attenuation or enhanced remediation were analyzed. Dhc 16S rRNA genes and the vinyl chloride (VC) reductive dehalogenase genes bvcA and vcrA were detected in 88% and 61% of samples, respectively, from wells with ethene. Dhc 16S rRNA, bvcA, vcrA, and tceA (implicated in cometabolic reductive VC dechlorination) gene abundances all positively correlated with ethene formation. Significantly greater ethene concentrations were observed when Dhc 16S rRNA gene and VC RDase gene abundances exceeded 107 and 106copies L–1, respectively, and when Dhc 16S rRNA- and bvcA + vcrA-to-total bacterial 16S rRNA gene ratios exceeded 0.1%. Dhc 16S rRNA gene-to-vcrA/bvcA ratios near unity also indicated elevated ethene; however, no increased ethene was observed in 19 wells where vcrA and/or bvcA gene copy numbers exceeded Dhc cell numbers 10- to 10 000-fold. Approximately one-third of samples with detectable ethene lacked bvcA, vcrA, and tceA, suggesting that comprehensive understanding of VC detoxification biomarkers has not been achieved. Although the current biomarker suite is incomplete, the data analysis corroborates the value of the available Dhc DNA biomarkers for prognostic and diagnostic groundwater monitoring at sites impacted with chlorinated ethenes.

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Clark K, Taggart DM, Baldwin BR, Ritalahti KM, Murdoch RW, Hatt JK, Loffler FE. 2018. Normalized quantitative PCR measurements as predictors for ethene formation at sites impacted with chlorinated ethenes. Environmental Science & Technology 52:13410-13420.