C and Cl isotope fractionation of 1,2-dichloroethane displays unique δ¹³C/δ³⁷Cl patterns for pathway identification and reveals surprising C-Cl bond involvement in microbial oxidation

Environ Sci Technol. 2014 Aug 19;48(16):9430-7. doi: 10.1021/es5031917. Epub 2014 Jul 24.


This study investigates dual element isotope fractionation during aerobic biodegradation of 1,2-dichloroethane (1,2-DCA) via oxidative cleavage of a C-H bond (Pseudomonas sp. strain DCA1) versus C-Cl bond cleavage by S(N)2 reaction (Xanthobacter autotrophicus GJ10 and Ancylobacter aquaticus AD20). Compound-specific chlorine isotope analysis of 1,2-DCA was performed for the first time, and isotope fractionation (ε(bulk)(Cl)) was determined by measurements of the same samples in three different laboratories using two gas chromatography-isotope ratio mass spectrometry systems and one gas chromatography-quadrupole mass spectrometry system. Strongly pathway-dependent slopes (Δδ13C/Δδ37Cl), 0.78 ± 0.03 (oxidation) and 7.7 ± 0.2 (S(N)2), delineate the potential of the dual isotope approach to identify 1,2-DCA degradation pathways in the field. In contrast to different ε(bulk)(C) values [-3.5 ± 0.1‰ (oxidation) and -31.9 ± 0.7 and -32.0 ± 0.9‰ (S(N)2)], the obtained ε(bulk)(Cl) values were surprisingly similar for the two pathways: -3.8 ± 0.2‰ (oxidation) and -4.2 ± 0.1 and -4.4 ± 0.2‰ (S(N)2). Apparent kinetic isotope effects (AKIEs) of 1.0070 ± 0.0002 (13C-AKIE, oxidation), 1.068 ± 0.001 (13C-AKIE, S(N)2), and 1.0087 ± 0.0002 (37Cl-AKIE, S(N)2) fell within expected ranges. In contrast, an unexpectedly large secondary 37Cl-AKIE of 1.0038 ± 0.0002 reveals a hitherto unrecognized involvement of C-Cl bonds in microbial C-H bond oxidation. Our two-dimensional isotope fractionation patterns allow for the first time reliable 1,2-DCA degradation pathway identification in the field, which unlocks the full potential of isotope applications for this important groundwater contaminant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Carbon Isotopes / analysis*
  • Chemical Fractionation
  • Chlorine / analysis
  • Ethylene Dichlorides / analysis*
  • Groundwater / chemistry*
  • Isotopes / analysis
  • Kinetics
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Xanthobacter / growth & development*


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Ethylene Dichlorides
  • Isotopes
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Chlorine
  • ethylene dichloride