Simple and inexpensive methods for assessing the metabolic status and bioremediation activities of subsurface microorganisms are required before bioremediation practitioners will adopt molecular diagnosis of the bioremediation community as a routine practice for guiding the development of bioremediation strategies. Quantifying gene transcripts can diagnose important aspects of microbial physiology during bioremediation but is technically challenging and does not account for the impact of translational modifications on protein abundance. An alternative strategy is to directly quantify the abundance of key proteins that might be diagnostic of physiological state. To evaluate this strategy, an antibody-based quantification approach was developed to investigate subsurface Geobacter communities. The abundance of citrate synthase corresponded with rates of metabolism of Geobacter bemidjiensis in chemostat cultures. During in situ bioremediation of uranium-contaminated groundwater the quantity of Geobacter citrate synthase increased with the addition of acetate to the groundwater and decreased when acetate amendments stopped. The abundance of the nitrogen-fixation protein, NifD, increased as ammonium became less available in the groundwater and then declined when ammonium concentrations increased. In a petroleum-contaminated aquifer, the abundance of BamB, an enzyme subunit involved in the anaerobic degradation of mono-aromatic compounds by Geobacter species, increased in zones in which Geobacter were expected to play an important role in aromatic hydrocarbon degradation. These results suggest that antibody-based detection of key metabolic proteins, which should be readily adaptable to standardized kits, may be a feasible method for diagnosing the metabolic state of microbial communities responsible for bioremediation, aiding in the rational design of bioremediation strategies.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/derek_lovley/8/