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      Metals, minerals and microbes: geomicrobiology and bioremediation

      Microbiology

      Microbiology Society

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          Abstract

          Microbes play key geoactive roles in the biosphere, particularly in the areas of element biotransformations and biogeochemical cycling, metal and mineral transformations, decomposition, bioweathering, and soil and sediment formation. All kinds of microbes, including prokaryotes and eukaryotes and their symbiotic associations with each other and 'higher organisms', can contribute actively to geological phenomena, and central to many such geomicrobial processes are transformations of metals and minerals. Microbes have a variety of properties that can effect changes in metal speciation, toxicity and mobility, as well as mineral formation or mineral dissolution or deterioration. Such mechanisms are important components of natural biogeochemical cycles for metals as well as associated elements in biomass, soil, rocks and minerals, e.g. sulfur and phosphorus, and metalloids, actinides and metal radionuclides. Apart from being important in natural biosphere processes, metal and mineral transformations can have beneficial or detrimental consequences in a human context. Bioremediation is the application of biological systems to the clean-up of organic and inorganic pollution, with bacteria and fungi being the most important organisms for reclamation, immobilization or detoxification of metallic and radionuclide pollutants. Some biominerals or metallic elements deposited by microbes have catalytic and other properties in nanoparticle, crystalline or colloidal forms, and these are relevant to the development of novel biomaterials for technological and antimicrobial purposes. On the negative side, metal and mineral transformations by microbes may result in spoilage and destruction of natural and synthetic materials, rock and mineral-based building materials (e.g. concrete), acid mine drainage and associated metal pollution, biocorrosion of metals, alloys and related substances, and adverse effects on radionuclide speciation, mobility and containment, all with immense social and economic consequences. The ubiquity and importance of microbes in biosphere processes make geomicrobiology one of the most important concepts within microbiology, and one requiring an interdisciplinary approach to define environmental and applied significance and underpin exploitation in biotechnology.

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          Most cited references 251

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          Microbial heavy-metal resistance.

          We are just beginning to understand the metabolism of heavy metals and to use their metabolic functions in biotechnology, although heavy metals comprise the major part of the elements in the periodic table. Because they can form complex compounds, some heavy metal ions are essential trace elements, but, essential or not, most heavy metals are toxic at higher concentrations. This review describes the workings of known metal-resistance systems in microorganisms. After an account of the basic principles of homoeostasis for all heavy-metal ions, the transport of the 17 most important (heavy metal) elements is compared.
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            Plant responses to abiotic stresses: heavy metal-induced oxidative stress and protection by mycorrhization.

            The aim of this review is to assess the mode of action and role of antioxidants as protection from heavy metal stress in roots, mycorrhizal fungi and mycorrhizae. Based on their chemical and physical properties three different molecular mechanisms of heavy metal toxicity can be distinguished: (a) production of reactive oxygen species by autoxidation and Fenton reaction; this reaction is typical for transition metals such as iron or copper, (b) blocking of essential functional groups in biomolecules, this reaction has mainly been reported for non-redox-reactive heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury, (c) displacement of essential metal ions from biomolecules; the latter reaction occurs with different kinds of heavy metals. Transition metals cause oxidative injury in plant tissue, but a literature survey did not provide evidence that this stress could be alleviated by increased levels of antioxidative systems. The reason may be that transition metals initiate hydroxyl radical production, which can not be controlled by antioxidants. Exposure of plants to non-redox reactive metals also resulted in oxidative stress as indicated by lipid peroxidation, H(2)O(2) accumulation, and an oxidative burst. Cadmium and some other metals caused a transient depletion of GSH and an inhibition of antioxidative enzymes, especially of glutathione reductase. Assessment of antioxidative capacities by metabolic modelling suggested that the reported diminution of antioxidants was sufficient to cause H(2)O(2) accumulation. The depletion of GSH is apparently a critical step in cadmium sensitivity since plants with improved capacities for GSH synthesis displayed higher Cd tolerance. Available data suggest that cadmium, when not detoxified rapidly enough, may trigger, via the disturbance of the redox control of the cell, a sequence of reactions leading to growth inhibition, stimulation of secondary metabolism, lignification, and finally cell death. This view is in contrast to the idea that cadmium results in unspecific necrosis. Plants in certain mycorrhizal associations are less sensitive to cadmium stress than non-mycorrhizal plants. Data about antioxidative systems in mycorrhizal fungi in pure culture and in symbiosis are scarce. The present results indicate that mycorrhization stimulated the phenolic defence system in the Paxillus-Pinus mycorrhizal symbiosis. Cadmium-induced changes in mycorrhizal roots were absent or smaller than those in non-mycorrhizal roots. These observations suggest that although changes in rhizospheric conditions were perceived by the root part of the symbiosis, the typical Cd-induced stress responses of phenolics were buffered. It is not known whether mycorrhization protected roots from Cd-induced injury by preventing access of cadmium to sensitive extra- or intracellular sites, or by excreted or intrinsic metal-chelators, or by other defence systems. It is possible that mycorrhizal fungi provide protection via GSH since higher concentrations of this thiol were found in pure cultures of the fungi than in bare roots. The development of stress-tolerant plant-mycorrhizal associations may be a promising new strategy for phytoremediation and soil amelioration measures.
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              Bacterial heavy metal resistance: new surprises.

              Bacterial plasmids encode resistance systems for toxic metal ions including Ag+, AsO2-, AsO4(3-), Cd2+, CO2+, CrO4(2-), Cu2+, Hg2+, Ni2+, Pb2+, Sb3+, TeO3(2-), Tl+, and Zn2+. In addition to understanding of the molecular genetics and environmental roles of these resistances, studies during the last few years have provided surprises and new biochemical mechanisms. Chromosomal determinants of toxic metal resistances are known, and the distinction between plasmid resistances and those from chromosomal genes has blurred, because for some metals (notably mercury and arsenic), the plasmid and chromosomal determinants are basically the same. Other systems, such as copper transport ATPases and metallothionein cation-binding proteins, are only known from chromosomal genes. The largest group of metal resistance systems function by energy-dependent efflux of toxic ions. Some of the efflux systems are ATPases and others are chemiosmotic cation/proton antiporters. The CadA cadmium resistance ATPase of gram-positive bacteria and the CopB copper efflux system of Enterococcus hirae are homologous to P-type ATPases of animals and plants. The CadA ATPase protein has been labeled with 32P from gamma-32P-ATP and drives ATP-dependent Cd2+ uptake by inside-out membrane vesicles. Recently isolated genes defective in the human hereditary diseases of copper metabolism, Menkes syndrome and Wilson's disease, encode P-type ATPases that are more similar to the bacterial CadA and CopB ATPases than to eukaryote ATPases that pump different cations. The arsenic resistance efflux system transports arsenite, using alternatively either a two-component (ArsA and ArsB) ATPase or a single polypeptide (ArsB) functioning as a chemiosmotic transporter. The third gene in the arsenic resistance system, arsC, encodes an enzyme that converts intracellular arsenate [As (V)] to arsenite [As (III)], the substrate of the efflux system. The three-component Czc (Cd2+, Zn2+, and CO2+) chemiosmotic efflux pump of soil microbes consists of inner membrane (CzcA), outer membrane (CzcC), and membrane-spanning (CzcB) proteins that together transport cations from the cytoplasm across the periplasmic space to the outside of the cell. Finally, the first bacterial metallothionein (which by definition is a small protein that binds metal cations by means of numerous cysteine thiolates) has been characterized in cyanobacteria.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Microbiology
                Microbiology
                Microbiology Society
                1350-0872
                1465-2080
                March 03 2010
                March 01 2010
                December 17 2009
                March 01 2010
                : 156
                : 3
                : 609-643
                Article
                10.1099/mic.0.037143-0
                20019082
                © 2010

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