Competition of two Sulfurospirillum populations for tetrachloroethene

Tetrachloroethene (PCE) represents a major groundwater pollutant. Some bacteria are able to use PCE as electron acceptor in an anaerobic respiration process called organohalide respiration (OHR). An anaerobic enrichment culture (named SL2-PCEb) consisting of two different Sulfurospirillum populations was obtained from a fixed-bed bioreactor sludge treating PCE-contaminated groundwater (1). The peculiarity of this bacterial consortium resides in stepwise dechlorination of PCE to trichloroethene (TCE) and cis-dichloroethene (cis-DCE), which is catalyzed by the two populations successively (2). Two subcultures were derived from SL2-PCEb, each one harboring one Sulfurospirillum population and showing distinct dechlorination potential: SL2-PCEc dechlorinates PCE to TCE only, while SL2-TCE (selected on TCE) kept the potential to dechlorinate both PCE and TCE. A molecular fingerprinting method targeting small differences in their rdhA genes was developed to follow the dynamics of both populations. The dechlorination activity of both populations suggested that the RdhA enzyme produced by SL2-PCEc has a higher turnover rate than the one produced by SL2-TCE (3). The present work proposes to study the competition of both SL2-PCEc and SL2-TCE populations for PCE by mixing them with different proportions and following their growth and activity. To this purpose, a new experimental set-up was developed by combining quantitative PCR and fragment analysis. This should highlight the physiological and molecular basis of the two RdhA enzymes for substrate affinity and enzymatic activity.


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