A molecular biological tool (MBT) is a collective term for a group of laboratory analysis tools and techniques used to assess biodegradation at contaminated sites. These tools help provide several key pieces of information, including:
- The types of contaminant-degrading microorganisms
- The microbial population on site (total bacterial count)
- The types of biodegradation processes present
Molecular biological tools are essential for the remediation of contaminated environments and engineered systems.
Several types of molecular biological tool (MBTs) are available, including:
- Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) – qPCR identifies and quantifies specific microorganisms using DNA-based techniques. The results from this MBT are used to determine the appropriate remedy selection and remedy design for a particular site.
- Stable isotope probing (SIP) – SIP is used to determine whether biodegradation of the contaminant under consideration is occurring at the site. This is achieved by tracking the levels of a 13C labeled contaminant incorporated into microbial biomass and dissolved inorganic carbon. If biodegradation occurs, then 13C will be detected in the end products of biodegradation.
- Compound specific isotope analysis (CSIA) – CSIA is used to provide direct evidence of ongoing contaminant degradation. This MBT works by measuring the ratio of stable isotopes (e.g., 13C/12C, 2H/1H) present in the contaminant under consideration.