The activity of microorganisms often plays an important role in dynamic natural attenuation or engineered bioremediation of subsurface contaminants, such as chlorinated solvents, metals, and radionuclides. To evaluate and/or design bioremediated systems, quantitative reactive transport models are needed. State-of-the-art reactive transport models often ignore the microbial effects or simulate the microbial effects with static growth yield and constant reaction rate parameters over simulated conditions, while in reality microorganisms can dynamically modify their functionality (such as utilization of alternative respiratory pathways) in response to spatial and temporal variations in environmental conditions. Constraint-based genome-scale microbial in silico models, using genomic data and multiple-pathway reaction networks, have been shown to be able to simulate transient metabolism of some well studied microorganisms and identify growth rate, substrate uptake rates, and byproduct rates under different growth conditions. These rates can be identified and used to replace specific microbially-mediated reaction rates in a reactive transport model using local geochemical conditions as constraints. We previously demonstrated the potential utility of integrating a constraint-based microbial metabolism model with a reactive transport simulator as applied to bioremediation of uranium in groundwater. However, that work relied on an indirect coupling approach that was effective for initial demonstration but may not be extensible to more complex problems that are of significant interest (e.g., communities of microbial species and multiple constraining variables). Here, we extend that work by presenting and demonstrating a method of directly integrating a reactive transport model (FORTRAN code) with constraint-based in silico models solved with IBM ILOG CPLEX linear optimizer base system (C library). The models were integrated with BABEL, a language interoperability tool. The modeling system is designed in such a way that constraint-based models targeting different microorganisms or competing organism communities can be easily plugged into the system. Constraint-based modeling is very costly given the size of a genome-scale reaction network. To save computation time, a binary tree is traversed to examine the concentration and solution pool generated during the simulation in order to decide whether the constraint-based model should be called. We also show preliminary results from the integrated model including a comparison of the direct and indirect coupling approaches and evaluated the ability of the approach to simulate field experiment.
Published by Elsevier B.V.