Monitoring Microbial Mineralization Using Reverse Stable Isotope Labeling Analysis by Mid-Infrared Laser Spectroscopy

Xiyang Dong, Maik A. Jochmann, Martin Elsner, Armin H. Meyer, Leonard E. Bäcker, Mona Rahmatullah, Daniel Schunk, Guido Lens, Rainer U. Meckenstock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Assessing the biodegradation of organic compounds is a frequent question in environmental science. Here, we present a sensitive, inexpensive, and simple approach to monitor microbial mineralization using reverse stable isotope labeling analysis (RIL) of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). The medium for the biodegradation assay contains regular organic compounds and 13C-labeled DIC with 13C atom fractions (x(13C)DIC) higher than natural abundance (typically 2-50%). The produced CO2 (x(13C) ≈ 1.11%) gradually dilutes the initial x(13C)DIC allowing to quantify microbial mineralization using mass-balance calculations. For 13C-enriched CO2 samples, a newly developed isotope ratio mid-infrared spectrometer was introduced with a precision of x(13C) < 0.006%. As an example for extremely difficult and slowly degradable compounds, CO2 production was close to the theoretical stoichiometry for anaerobic naphthalene degradation by a sulfate-reducing enrichment culture. Furthermore, we could measure the aerobic degradation of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) adsorbed to granular activated carbon in a drinking water production plant, which cannot be labeled with 13C. Thus, the RIL approach can be applied to sensitively monitor biodegradation of various organic compounds under anoxic or oxic conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11876-11883
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number20
StatePublished - 17 Oct 2017


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