Perfluoroalkyl Acids Inhibit Reductive Dechlorination of Trichloroethene by Repressing Dehalococcoides.
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The subsurface recalcitrance of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) derived from aqueous film-forming foams could have adverse impacts on the microbiological processes used for the bioremediation of co-mingled chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethene (TCE). Here, we show that reductive dechlorination by a methanogenic, mixed culture was significantly inhibited when exposed to concentrations representative of PFAA source zones (>66 mg/L total of 11 PFAA analytes, 6 mg/L each). TCE dechlorination, cis-dichloroethene and vinyl chloride production and dechlorination, and ethene generation were all inhibited at these PFAA concentrations. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the abundances of 65% of the operational taxonomic units (OTUs) changed significantly when grown in the presence of PFAAs, although repression or enhancement resulting from PFAA exposure did not correlate with putative function or phylogeny. Notably, there was significant repression of Dehalococcoides (8-fold decrease in abundance) coupled with a corresponding enhancement of methane-generating Archaea (a 9-fold increase). Growth and dechlorination by axenic cultures of Dehalococcoides mccartyi strain 195 were similarly repressed under these conditions, confirming an inhibitory response of this pivotal genus to PFAA presence. These results suggest that chlorinated solvent bioattenuation rates could be impeded in subsurface environments near PFAA source zones.