When researchers want to understand how microbes interact with toxic materials, they often sequence the organisms collected at waste sites. Bacteria such as Dehalococcoides and Dehalogenimonas lykanthrorepellens are found in soil and groundwater contaminated with chlorinated compounds such as the dry-cleaning agent tetrachloroethene and the industrial solvent trichloroethene. Cleaning up these contaminated sites can cost several billion dollars annually and take several years. Researchers hope studying the naturally-occurring bacteria that thrive in these environments will lend insight into how to clean such sites up in less time and at far less cost.
D. lykanthrorepellens is a novel species isolated from contaminated groundwater. It is related to the Dehalococcoides species found in contaminated groundwater at PetroProcessors of Louisiana, which is considered a Superfund or abandoned hazardous waste site by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Several of the Dehalococcoides bacterial species are currently being studied, and companies are already using one species in particular to break down chlorinated compounds into harmless materials. Studying D. lykanthrorepellens might provide researchers with another dechlorinating bacteria that could be used to clean up similarly contaminated sites.
Principal Investigators: Willem Moe (Louisiana State University)
Program: CSP 2009