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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Microbial Community Dynamics of Lactate Enriched Hanford Groundwaters


The Department of Energy site at Hanford, WA, has been historically impacted by U and Cr from the nuclear weapons industry. In an attempt to stimulate microbial remediation of these metals, in-situ lactate enrichment experiments are ongoing. In order to bridge the gap from the laboratory to the field, we inoculated triplicate anaerobic, continuous-flow glass reactors with groundwater collected from well Hanford 100-H in order to obtain a stable, enriched community while selecting for metal-reducing bacteria. Each reactor was fed from a single carboy containing defined media with 30 mM lactate at a rate of 0.223 ml/min under continuous nitrogen flow at 9 ml/min. Cell counts, organic acids, gDNA (for qPCR and pyrosequencing) and gases were sampled during the experiment. Cell counts remained low (less than 1x107 cells/ml) during the first two weeks of the experiment, but by day 20, had reached a density greater than 1x108 cells/ml. Metabolite analysis showed a decrease in the lactate concentrations over time. Pyruvate concentrations ranged from 20-40 uM the first week of the experiment then was undetectable after day 10. Likewise, formate appeared in the reactors during the first week with concentrations of 1.48-1.65 mM at day 7 then the concentrations decreased to 0.69-0.95 on day 10 and were undetectable on day 15. Acetate was present in low amounts on day 3 (0.15-0.33 mM) and steadily increased to 3.35-5.22 mM over time. Similarly, carbon dioxide was present in low concentrations early on and increased to 0.28-0.35 mM as the experiment progressed. We also were able to detect low amounts of methane (10-20 uM) during the first week of the experiment, but by day 10 the methane was undetectable. From these results and pyrosequencing analysis, we conclude that a shift in the microbial community dynamics occurred over time to eventually form a stable and enriched microbial community. Comprehensive investigations such as these allow for the examination of not only which nutrient source will accelerate site remediation, but also provide insight to evaluate remediation strategies through which enriched community members are important for bioremediation.

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