Successful operation of continuous reactors at short retention times results in high-density, fast-rate Dehalococcoides dechlorinating cultures
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- Delgado, A.G., Fajardo-Williams, D., Popat, S.C. et al. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (2014) 98: 2729. doi:10.1007/s00253-013-5263-5
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The discovery of Dehalococcoides mccartyi reducing perchloroethene and trichloroethene (TCE) to ethene was a key landmark for bioremediation applications at contaminated sites. D. mccartyi-containing cultures are typically grown in batch-fed reactors. On the other hand, continuous cultivation of these microorganisms has been described only at long hydraulic retention times (HRTs). We report the cultivation of a representative D. mccartyi-containing culture in continuous stirred-tank reactors (CSTRs) at a short, 3-d HRT, using TCE as the electron acceptor. We successfully operated 3-d HRT CSTRs for up to 120 days and observed sustained dechlorination of TCE at influent concentrations of 1 and 2 mM TCE to ≥97 % ethene, coupled to the production of 1012D. mccartyi cells Lculture−1. These outcomes were possible in part by using a medium with low bicarbonate concentrations (5 mM) to minimize the excessive proliferation of microorganisms that use bicarbonate as an electron acceptor and compete with D. mccartyi for H2. The maximum conversion rates for the CSTR-produced culture were 0.13 ± 0.016, 0.06 ± 0.018, and 0.02 ± 0.007 mmol Cl− Lculture−1 h−1, respectively, for TCE, cis-dichloroethene, and vinyl chloride. The CSTR operation described here provides the fastest laboratory cultivation rate of high-cell density Dehalococcoides cultures reported in the literature to date. This cultivation method provides a fundamental scientific platform for potential future operations of such a system at larger scales.