Assessment of indigenous reductive dechlorinating potential at a TCE-contaminated site using microcosms, polymerase chain reaction analysis, and site data

Environ Sci Technol. 2001 May 1;35(9):1830-9. doi: 10.1021/es0016203.


A combination of microcosm studies, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis, and site data was used to assess the indigenous reductive dechlorinating potential in a trichloroethene (TCE)-contaminated aquifer at Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida. Sediment and groundwater were obtained from two distinct locations approximately 10 m apart. Microcosm studies were performed to assess dechlorinating activity under a variety of nutrient and electron donor amendment conditions. Most live microcosms constructed using material from the first location, near well 9 (W09), were negative for dechlorination. All live microcosms constructed using material from the second location (W06) exhibited dechlorination of TCE to vinyl chloride (VC) and ethene (ETH). DNA encoding 16S ribosomal RNA (rDNA) with a sequence nearly identical with that from Dehalococcoides ethenogenes strain 195 was detected in the active microcosms and in the sediment from W06 with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using primers targeted to unique regions of Dehalococcoides 16S rDNA. Dehalococcoides was not detected in the autoclaved microcosms from W06, nor in sediment and most microcosms from W09. The results of the microcosm studies and PCR analysis were supported by field data, which indicated significant accumulation of cis-1,2-dichloroethene (cisDCE) and VC at W06, but not at W09. The different microcosm results obtained for the two locations and the spatial variation of positive PCR results indicates heterogeneous distribution of dechlorinating activity and a specific dechlorinating organism, Dehalococcoides, at the site. As both Dehalococcoides and dechlorination activity were similarly, heterogeneously distributed, this suggests that molecular-probing (which could and should be extended in the future to include virtually all known dechlorinators and/or dehalogenases) can provide a relatively quick and facile method for investigating spatial distributions of dechlorinators on-site.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Florida
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Trichloroethylene / metabolism*
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Trichloroethylene