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Environ Microbiol. 2001 Feb;3(2):92-9.

Coexistence of a sulphate-reducing Desulfovibrio species and the dehalorespiring Desulfitobacterium frappieri TCE1 in defined chemostat cultures grown with various combinations of sulfate and tetrachloroethene.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Groningen, Haren, The Netherlands.


A two-member co-culture consisting of the dehalorespiring Desulfitobacterium frappieri TCE1 and the sulphate-reducing Desulfovibrio sp. strain SULF1 was obtained via anaerobic enrichment from soil contaminated with tetrachloroethene (PCE). In this co-culture, PCE dechlorination to cis-dichloroethene was due to the activity of the dehalorespiring bacterium only. Chemostat experiments with lactate as the primary electron donor for both strains along with varying sulphate and PCE concentrations showed that the sulphate-reducing strain outnumbered the dehalogenating strain at relatively high ratios of sulphate/PCE. Stable co-cultures with both organisms present at similar cell densities were observed when both electron acceptors were supplied in the reservoir medium in nearly equimolar amounts. In the presence of low sulphate/PCE ratios, the Desulfitobacterium sp. became the numerically dominant strain within the chemostat co-culture. Surprisingly, in the absence of sulphate, strain SULF1 did not disappear completely from the co-culture despite the fact that there was no electron acceptor provided with the medium to be used by this sulphate reducer. Therefore, we propose a syntrophic association between the sulphate-reducing and the dehalorespiring bacteria via interspecies hydrogen transfer. The sulphate reducer was able to sustain growth in the chemostat co-culture by fermenting lactate and using the dehalogenating bacterium as a 'biological electron acceptor'. This is the first report describing growth of a sulphate-reducing bacterium in a defined two-member continuous culture by syntrophically coupling the electron and hydrogen transfer to a dehalorespiring bacterium.

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