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Bioaccumulation of U(VI) by Sulfolobus acidocaldarius at moderate acidic conditions.

Reitz, T.; Merroun, M. L.; Rossberg, A.; Steudtner, R.; Selenska-Pobell, S.


U(VI) accumulation by the acidothermophilic archaeon Sulfolobus acidocaldarius at pH 4.5 and 6 was investigated. These pH values are relevant for some heavy metal and uranium polluted environments where populations of S. acidocaldarius were found to persist. We demonstrate that at these pH values U(VI) is rapidly complexed by the archaeal cells. A combination of X-ray absorption spectroscopy and time-resolved laser induced fluorescence spectroscopy revealed that at pH 4.5 both, organic phosphate and carboxylic groups are involved in the U(VI) complexation. In addition, at this pH, part of the added U(VI) was precipitated in inorganic uranyl phosphate mineral phases. These mineral phases were the most predominant uranium complexes found after the treatment of the cells with U(VI) at pH 6. Transmission electron microscopic analysis of the cells treated at pH 4.5 showed extracellular and intracellular U(VI) accumulates. The extracellular complexes represented mainly inorganic uranyl phosphate complexes. The formation of the intracellular uranyl phosphate deposits is attributed to uncontrolled uptake of U(VI) as a result of the increased cell permeability, most likely due to the stress of the non-optimal pH and uranium toxicity. Our results demonstrate that at moderate acidic conditions S. acidocaldarius immobilizes U(VI) via biosorption and biomineralization processes.

Keywords: Sulfolobus acidocaldarius DSM 639; Interactions with U(VI); X-ray absorption spectroscopy; Time-resolved laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy; Transmission electron microscopy


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