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Environ Microbiol. 2012 Apr;14(4):883-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2011.02656.x. Epub 2011 Nov 28.

Complete chloroform dechlorination by organochlorine respiration and fermentation.

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Centre for Marine Bioinnovation, School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.


Chloroform (CF, CHCl(3)) is a recalcitrant and toxic environmental pollutant. In this communication we report for the first time a microbial community capable of complete CF dechlorination by metabolic processes. Cultures derived from subsurface soil (3.5 m) could sustain complete dechlorination of CF at levels of least 360 µM at a rate of 40 µM per day. Scrutiny of CF dechlorination revealed two metabolic processes at work. First, CF was respired to dichloromethane (DCM, CH(2) Cl(2)), which was then fermented to acetate, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Elevated hydrogen partial pressures were found to inhibit the fermentation process. Interspecies hydrogen transfer was observed in the form of methanogenesis and acetogenesis. This suggests that the dechlorination process required syntrophic partners to maintain low hydrogen partial pressures. (13)C-labelled DCM was employed to help elucidate the chemistry of the process and identify bacterial community members involved. CF respiring cultures, where emulsified vegetable oil was supplied as the electron donor and DCM fermenting cultures, where DCM was supplied as the sole organic carbon source were studied separately. Pyrosequencing of these cultures revealed Dehalobacter lineages as a predominant community member in both. Subsequent growth experiments confirmed that the proliferation of Dehalobacter was linked directly to both the dehalorespiration and dehalofermentation processes.

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