Diversity and distribution of bacterial communities in dioxin-contaminated sediments from the Houston ship channel



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The Port of Houston and the Houston Ship Channel (HSC) are highly industrialized areas along Galveston Bay, Texas. The HSC is highly polluted with a host of persistent organic pollutants, including dioxins. The main objective of this study was to determine the potential for in situ bioremediation in the HSC sediments. Our study focused on the bacterial group Dehalococcoides, since it is the only known group to reductively dechlorinate dioxins. Culture independent methods were used to determine the presence or absence of Dehalococcoides in HSC sediments. Molecular methods including PCR, cloning, restriction enzyme digest, and sequencing were used to determine the diversity of Dehalococcoides as well as total bacterial diversity in HSC sediments. The metabolically active members of the microbial community in HSC sediments were also determined using the same molecular methods as described above. Dehalococcoides was detected in every sediment core and at various depths within each core. Depths ranged from 1cm (SG-6) to 30cm (11261). Dehalococcoides diversity was centered on Dehalococcoides ethenogenes strain 195 and Dehalococcoides sp. strain CBDB1. Overall bacterial diversity in HSC sediments was dominated by Proteobacteria, especially Deltaproteobacteria, and Chloroflexi, which include Dehalococcoides. Total bacterial diversity at a wetlands control site was dominated by Betaproteobacteria and Acidobacteria. Deltaproteobacteria and Chloroflexi were determined to be the major metabolically active groups within the HSC sediments. These findings indicate that the HSC sediments have great potential for successful in situ bioremediation. These results also support the use of Dehalococcoides as a biological proxy for dioxin contamination.