Molecular characterization of microbial populations at two sites with differing reductive dechlorination abilities. Academic Article uri icon


  • This study compares three molecular techniques, including terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP), RFLP analysis with clone sequencing, and quantitative PCR (Q-PCR) for surveying differences in microbial communities at two contaminated field sites that exhibit dissimilar chlorinated solvent degradation activities. At the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL), trichloroethene (TCE) was completely converted to ethene during biostimulation with lactate. At Seal Beach, California, perchloroethene (PCE) was degraded only to cis-dichloroethene (cDCE) during biostimulation but was degraded to ethene after bioaugmentation with a dechlorinating culture containing Dehalococcoides strains. T-RFLP analysis showed that microbial community composition differed significantly between the two sites, but was similar within each site among wells that had low or no electron donor exposure. Analysis of INEEL clone libraries by RFLP with clone sequencing revealed a complex microbial population but did not identify any Dehalococcoides strains. Q-PCR targeting the 16S rRNA gene of Dehalococcoides strains - known for their unique capability to dechlorinate solvents completely to ethene - revealed a significant population at INEEL, but no detectable population at Seal Beach prior to bioaugmentation. Detection of Dehalococcoides by Q-PCR correlated with observed dechlorination activity and ethene production at both sites. Q-PCR showed that Dehalococcoides was present in even the pristine well at INEEL, suggesting that the difference in dechlorination ability at the two sites was due to the initial absence of this genus at Seal Beach. Of the techniques tested, Q-PCR quantification of specific dechlorinating species provided the most effective and direct prediction of community dechlorinating potential.

published proceedings

  • Biodegradation

author list (cited authors)

  • Rahm, B. G., Chauhan, S., Holmes, V. F., Macbeth, T. W., Sorenson, K. S., & Alvarez-Cohen, L.

citation count

  • 62

complete list of authors

  • Rahm, Brian G||Chauhan, Sadhana||Holmes, Victor F||Macbeth, Tamzen W||Sorenson, Kent S||Alvarez-Cohen, Lisa

publication date

  • January 2006