Dual C–Br isotope fractionation indicates distinct reductive dehalogenation mechanisms of 1,2-Dibromoethane in Dehalococcoides- and Dehalogenimonas-containing cultures

Jordi Palau, Alba Trueba-Santiso, Yu Rong, Siti Hatijah Mortan, Orfan Shouakar-Stash, David L. Freedman, Kenneth Wasmund, Daniel Hunkeler, Ernest Marco-Urrea, Mònica Rosell

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Brominated organic compounds such as 1,2-dibromoethane (1,2-DBA) are highly toxic groundwater contaminants. Multi-element compound-specific isotope analysis bears the potential to elucidate the biodegradation pathways of 1,2-DBA in the environment, which is crucial information to assess its fate in contaminated sites. This study investigates for the first time dual C–Br isotope fractionation during in vivo biodegradation of 1,2-DBA by two anaerobic enrichment cultures containing organohalide-respiring bacteria (i.e., either Dehalococcoides or Dehalogenimonas). Different εbulkC values (−1.8 ± 0.2 and −19.2 ± 3.5‰, respectively) were obtained, whereas their respective εbulkBr values were lower and similar to each other (−1.22 ± 0.08 and −1.2 ± 0.5‰), leading to distinctly different trends (ΛC–Br = Δδ13C/Δδ81Br ≈ εbulkC/εbulkBr) in a dual C–Br isotope plot (1.4 ± 0.2 and 12 ± 4, respectively). These results suggest the occurrence of different underlying reaction mechanisms during enzymatic 1,2-DBA transformation, that is, concerted dihaloelimination and nucleophilic substitution (SN2-reaction). The strongly pathway-dependent ΛC–Br values illustrate the potential of this approach to elucidate the reaction mechanism of 1,2-DBA in the field and to select appropriate εbulkC values for quantification of biodegradation. The results of this study provide valuable information for future biodegradation studies of 1,2-DBA in contaminated sites.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Early online date26 Jan 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 26 Jan 2023


  • brominated organic compounds
  • groundwater contamination
  • biodegradation
  • organohalide-respiring bacteria
  • compound-specific isotope analysis

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