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Environmental proteomics reveals early microbial community responses to biostimulation at a uranium- and nitrate-contaminated site


Correspondence: Dr. Karuna Chourey, Chemical Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6131, USA


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High-performance MS instrumentation coupled with improved protein extraction techniques enables metaproteomics to identify active members of soil and groundwater microbial communities. Metaproteomics workflows were applied to study the initial responses (i.e. 4 days post treatment) of the indigenous aquifer microbiota to biostimulation with emulsified vegetable oil (EVO) at a uranium-contaminated site. Members of the Betaproteobacteria (i.e. Dechloromonas, Ralstonia, Rhodoferax, Polaromonas, Delftia, Chromobacterium) and the Firmicutes dominated the biostimulated aquifer community. Proteome characterization revealed distinct differences between the microbial biomass collected from groundwater influenced by biostimulation and groundwater collected upgradient of the EVO injection points. In particular, proteins involved in ammonium assimilation, EVO degradation, and polyhydroxybutyrate granule formation were prominent following biostimulation. Interestingly, the atypical NosZ of Dechloromonas spp. was highly abundant, suggesting active nitrous oxide (N2O) respiration. c-Type cytochromes were barely detected, as was citrate synthase, a biomarker for hexavalent uranium reduction activity, suggesting that uranium reduction has not commenced 4 days post EVO amendment. Environmental metaproteomics identified microbial community responses to biostimulation and elucidated active pathways demonstrating the value of this technique as a monitoring tool and for complementing nucleic acid-based approaches.