Molecular Evolution of Reductive Dehalogenases
Idiosyncratic combinations of reductive dehalogenase (rdh) genes are a distinguishing genomic feature of closely related organohalogen-respiring bacteria. This feature can be used to deconvolute the population structure of organohalogen-respiring bacteria in complex environments and to identify relevant subpopulations, which is important for tracking interspecies dynamics needed for successful site remediation. Here we report the development of a nanoliter qPCR platform to identify organohalogen-respiring bacteria and populations by quantifying major orthologous reductive dehalogenase gene groups. The qPCR assays can be operated in parallel within a 5184-well nanoliter qPCR (nL-qPCR) chip at a single annealing temperature and buffer condition. We developed a robust bioinformatics approach to select from thousands of computationally proposed primer pairs those that are specific to individual rdh gene groups and compatible with a single amplification condition. We validated hundreds of the most selective qPCR assays and examined their performance in a trichloroethene-degrading bioreactor, revealing population structures as well as their unexpected shifts in abundance and community dynamics.