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Electron donors and co-contaminants affect microbial community composition and activity in perchlorate degradation


Although microbial reduction of perchlorate (ClO4 ) is a promising and effective method, our knowledge on the changes in microbial communities during ClO4 degradation is limited, especially when different electron donors are supplied and/or other contaminants are present. Here, we examined the effects of acetate and hydrogen as electron donors and nitrate and ammonium as co-contaminants on ClO4 degradation by anaerobic microcosms using six treatments. The process of degradation was divided into the lag stage (SI) and the accelerated stage (SII). Quantitative PCR was used to quantify four genes: pcrA (encoding perchlorate reductase), cld (encoding chlorite dismutase), nirS (encoding copper and cytochrome cd1 nitrite reductase), and 16S rRNA. While the degradation of ClO4 with acetate, nitrate, and ammonia system (PNA) was the fastest with the highest abundance of the four genes, it was the slowest in the autotrophic system (HYP). The pcrA gene accumulated in SI and played a key role in initiating the accelerated degradation of ClO4 when its abundance reached a peak. Degradation in SII was primarily maintained by the cld gene. Acetate inhibited the growth of perchlorate-reducing bacteria (PRB), but its effect was weakened by nitrate (NO3 ), which promoted the growth of PRB in SI, and therefore, accelerated the ClO4 degradation rate. In addition, ammonia (NH4 +), as nitrogen sources, accelerated the growth of PRB. The bacterial communities’ structure and diversity were significantly affected by electron donors and co-contaminants. Under heterotrophic conditions, both ammonia and nitrate promoted Azospira as the most dominant genera, a fact that might significantly influence the rate of ClO4 natural attenuation by degradation.

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This research was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (40972162, granted to FL), Beijing Higher Education Young Elite Teacher Project (granted to XYG), and The Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2012071, granted to XYG).

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Correspondence to Fei Liu.

Additional information

Xiangyu Guan and Yuxuan Xie equally contributed to this work.

Responsible editor: Gerald Thouand

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Guan, X., Xie, Y., Wang, J. et al. Electron donors and co-contaminants affect microbial community composition and activity in perchlorate degradation. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 6057–6067 (2015).

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  • Bacterial community
  • Ammonia
  • Nitrate
  • Perchlorate
  • Perchlorate-reducing bacteria
  • Quantitative PCR