Reductive dechlorination of polychlorinated biphenyls is coupled to nitrogen fixation by a legume-rhizobium symbiosis
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Chlorinated persistent organic pollutants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), represent a particularly serious environmental problem and human health risk worldwide. Leguminous plants and their symbiotic bacteria (rhizobia) are important components of the biogeochemical cycling of nitrogen in both agricultural and natural ecosystems. However, there have been relatively few detailed studies of the remediation of PCB-contaminated soils by legume-rhizobia symbionts. Here we report for the first time evidence of the reductive dechlorination of 2,4,4′-trichlorobiphenyl (PCB 28) by an alfalfa-rhizobium nitrogen fixing symbiont. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) inoculated with wild-type Sinorhizobium meliloti had significantly larger biomass and PCB 28 accumulation than alfalfa inoculated with the nitrogenase negative mutant rhizobium SmY. Dechlorination products of PCB 28, 2,4′-dichlorobiphenyl (PCB 8), and the emission of chloride ion (Cl−) were also found to decrease significantly in the ineffective nodules infected by the mutant strain SmY. We therefore hypothesize that N2-fixation by the legume-rhizobium symbiont is coupled with the reductive dechlorination of PCBs within the nodules. The combination of these two processes is of great importance to the biogeochemical cycling and bioremediation of organochlorine pollutants in terrestrial ecosystems.
KeywordsBiogeochemical cycling Legume-rhizobia symbiosis Microbe-assisted phytoremediation Nitrogen fixation Polychlorinated biphenyls Soil pollution and remediation Reductive dechlorination
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The authors thank Prof. Yu G Q for kindly providing S. meliloti wild-type and SmY mutant strains. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41201313 & 41230858).
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