Defined microbial communities were developed by combining selective enrichment with molecular monitoring of total community genes coding for 16S rRNAs (16S rDNAs) to identify potential polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-dechlorinating anaerobes that ortho dechlorinate 2,3, 5,6-tetrachlorobiphenyl. In enrichment cultures that contained a defined estuarine medium, three fatty acids, and sterile sediment, a Clostridium sp. was predominant in the absence of added PCB, but undescribed species in the delta subgroup of the class Proteobacteria, the low-G+C gram-positive subgroup, the Thermotogales subgroup, and a single species with sequence similarity to the deeply branching species Dehalococcoides ethenogenes were more predominant during active dechlorination of the PCB. Species with high sequence similarities to Methanomicrobiales and Methanosarcinales archaeal subgroups were predominant in both dechlorinating and nondechlorinating enrichment cultures. Deletion of sediment from PCB-dechlorinating enrichment cultures reduced the rate of dechlorination and the diversity of the community. Substitution of sodium acetate for the mixture of three fatty acids increased the rate of dechlorination, further reduced the community diversity, and caused a shift in the predominant species that included restriction fragment length polymorphism patterns not previously detected. Although PCB-dechlorinating cultures were methanogenic, inhibition of methanogenesis and elimination of the archaeal community by addition of bromoethanesulfonic acid only slightly inhibited dechlorination, indicating that the archaea were not required for ortho dechlorination of the congener. Deletion of Clostridium spp. from the community profile by addition of vancomycin only slightly reduced dechlorination. However, addition of sodium molybdate, an inhibitor of sulfate reduction, inhibited dechlorination and deleted selected species from the community profiles of the class Bacteria. With the exception of one 16S rDNA sequence that had the highest sequence similarity to the obligate perchloroethylene-dechlorinating Dehalococcoides, the 16S rDNA sequences associated with PCB ortho dechlorination had high sequence similarities to the delta, low-G+C gram-positive, and Thermotogales subgroups, which all include sulfur-, sulfate-, and/or iron(III)-respiring bacterial species.
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