Sustained dechlorination of vinyl chloride to ethene in dehalococcoides-enriched cultures grown without addition of exogenous vitamins and at low pH

© 2019 American Chemical Society. Trichloroethene (TCE) bioremediation has been demonstrated at field sites using microbial cultures harboring TCE-respiring Dehalococcoides whose growth is cobalamin (vitamin B12)-dependent. Bioaugmentation cultures grown ex situ with ample exogenous vitamins and at neutral pH may become vitamin-limited or inhibited by acidic pH once injected into field sites, resulting in incomplete TCE dechlorination and accumulation of vinyl chloride (VC). Here, we report growth of the Dehalococcoides-containing bioaugmentation culture KB-1 in a TCE-amended mineral medium devoid of vitamins and in a VC-amended mineral medium at low pH (6.0 and 5.5). In these cultures, Acetobacterium, which can synthesize 5,6-dimethylbenzimidazole (DMB), the lower ligand of cobalamin, and Sporomusa are dominant acetogens. At neutral pH, Acetobacterium supports complete TCE dechlorination by Dehalococcoides at millimolar levels with a substantial increase in cobalamin (∼20-fold). Sustained dechlorination of VC to ethene was achieved at pH as low as 5.5. Below pH 5.0, dechlorination was not stimulated by DMB supplementation but was restored by raising pH to neutral. Cell-extract assays revealed that vinyl chloride reductase activity declines significantly below pH 6.0 and is undetectable below pH 5.0. This study highlights the importance of cobamide-producing populations and pH in microbial dechlorinating communities for successful bioremediation at field sites.