Genomics Improves Contaminant Transport Simulations


Microbes profoundly affect the mobility of contaminants in the environment, but current transport models oversimplify predictions of microbial activity in situ. DOE-funded researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the universities of Toronto and Massachusetts have coupled a genome-scale metabolic model of a uranium-reducing microorganism, Geobacter sulfurreducens, to the reactive transport code HYDROGEOCHEM to better predict the in situ bioremediation of uranium at the Rifle, Colorado, test site. This enabled the researchers to integrate field tests and laboratory investigations and to demonstrate important advances between current empirical methods of simulating microbial activity and the new genome-scale metabolic modeling approach. The new, genome-based approach better predicts the coupled physical, chemical, and biological processes influencing the mobility of contaminants in the environment. The approach can be extended to other natural environments and other microbes or microbial communities. It also demonstrates the importance of studying environmentally relevant microbes to describe important microbially mediated processes in the environment.


Microbial Biotechnology., 2009, 2 (2): 274-286.