Different pH conditions have been demonstrated to affect the activities of dechlorinating populations participating in the successive dechlorination of trichloroethylene to ethylene. However, the mechanism of the effect of pH conditions on the assembly of dechlorinating populations and their relations to the structure, function, and dynamics of the microbiome are unclear. In this study, we evaluated the effects of pH on microbiomes assembled in anaerobic trichloroethylene-dechlorinating reactors under neutral (pH 7.2), acidic (pH 6.2), and alkaline (pH 8.2) conditions. The results revealed that among the reactors, the acidic reactor had the highest efficiency for dechlorination without accumulation of dechlorinated metabolites, even at high loading rates. The results of high-throughput sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene indicated that the microbiomes in the 3 reactors underwent varied dynamic succession. The acidic reactor harbored a higher degree of complex microbes, dechlorinator diversity, and abundance of the Victoria subgroup of Dehalococcoides (1.2 ± 0.1 × 106 cell/mL), which were approximately 10–102-fold higher than those at neutral and alkaline conditions. The pH settings altered species–species connectivity and complexity of microbial interaction networks, with more commensal interactions in the dechlorinators of the acidic reactor. As predicted, abundances of several functional gene categories were in strong linearity with pH values, and the microbiome possessed significantly more abundant functions in the acidic reactor (P < 0.001), such as potentially stimulating hydrogen production, cobalamin synthesis, cobalt transport, transport and metabolism of amino acids and secondary metabolites, cell motility, and transcription. All results of microbiomic analyses consistently revealed the observed superior dechlorination process and suggested an association of the reductive dechlorination process with the pH-dependent microbiome. The results of this study provide a new insight into the trichloroethylene dechlorination with regards to pH, and they will be useful for improving bioremediation and management of trichloroethylene-contaminated sites.
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