Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) anaerobic degradation in marine sediments: microcosm study and role of autochthonous microbial communities

Bruna Matturro, Carla Ubaldi, Paola Grenni, Anna Barra Caracciolo, Simona Rossetti

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Polychlorobiphenyl (PCB) biodegradation was followed for 1 year in microcosms containing marine sediments collected from Mar Piccolo (Taranto, Italy) chronically contaminated by this class of hazardous compounds. The microcosms were performed under strictly anaerobic conditions with or without the addition of Dehalococcoides mccartyi, the main microorganism known to degrade PCBs through the anaerobic reductive dechlorination process. Thirty PCB congeners were monitored during the experiments revealing that the biodegradation occurred in all microcosms with a decrease in hepta-, hexa-, and penta-chlorobiphenyls (CBs) and a parallel increase in low chlorinated PCBs (tri-CBs and tetra-CBs). The concentrations of the most representative congeners detected in the original sediment, such as 245-245-CB and 2345-245-CB, and of the mixture 2356-34-CB+234-245-CB, decreased by 32.5, 23.8, and 46.7 %, respectively, after only 70 days of anaerobic incubation without any bioaugmentation treatment. Additionally, the structure and population dynamics of the microbial key players involved in the biodegradative process and of the entire mixed microbial community were accurately defined by Catalyzed Reporter Deposition Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (CARD-FISH) in both the original sediment and during the operation of the microcosm. The reductive dehalogenase genes of D. mccartyi, specifically involved in PCB dechlorination, were also quantified using real-time PCR (qPCR). Our results demonstrated that the autochthonous microbial community living in the marine sediment, including D. mccartyi (6.32E+06 16S rRNA gene copy numbers g−1sediment), was able to efficiently sustain the biodegradation of PCBs when controlled anaerobic conditions were imposed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12613 - 12623
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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