Microbial community composition during anaerobic mineralization of tert -butyl alcohol (TBA) in fuel-contaminated aquifer material

Na Wei, Kevin T. Finneran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anaerobic mineralization of tert-butyl alcohol (TBA) and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) were studied in sediment incubations prepared with fuel-contaminated aquifer material. Microbial community compositions in all incubations were characterized by amplified ribosomal DNA restriction analysis (ARDRA). The aquifer material mineralized 42.3 ± 9.9% of [U- 14C]-TBA to 14CO2 without electron acceptor amendment. Fe(III), sulfate, and Fe(III) plus anthraquinone-2,6-disulfonate addition also promoted U-[14C]-TBA mineralization at levels similar to those of the unamended controls. Nitrate actually inhibited TBA mineralization relative to unamended controls. In contrast to TBA, [U- 14C]-MTBE was not significantly mineralized in 400 days regardless of electron acceptor amendment. Microbial community analysis indicated that the abundance of one dominant clone group correlated closely with anaerobic TBA mineralization. The clone was phylogenetically distinct from known aerobic TBA-degrading microorganisms, Fe(III)- or sulfate-reducing bacteria. It was most closely associated with organisms belonging to the alphaproteobacteria. Microbial communities were different in MTBE and TBA amended incubations. Shannon indices and Simpson indices (statistical community comparison tools) both demonstrated that microbial community diversity decreased in incubations actively mineralizing TBA, with distinct "dominant" clones developing. These data contribute to our understanding of anaerobic microbial transformation of fuel oxygenates in contaminated aquifer material and the organisms that may catalyze the reactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3012-3018
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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