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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2001 Jul;56(1-2):276-9.

Bioaccumulation of mercury from wastewater by genetically engineered Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, Xiamen University, PR China.


Genetically engineered E. coli, which express both a Hg2+ transport system and metallothionein, were tested for their ability to remove mercury from wastewater. The wastewater contained more than ten different ions, including 2.58 mg/l mercury, and its pH was 9.6. Mercury uptake was faster from the wastewater than from distilled water, probably because of the higher ionic strength, as the high pH had little effect on mercury accumulation. EDTA also stimulated mercury uptake rather than inhibiting it. A hollow-fiber bioreactor was used to retain induced cells for continuous mercury uptake. The cells removed more than 99% of the mercury in the wastewater and the final amount of mercury accumulated was 26.8 mg/g cell dry weight, while none of the other ions were removed from the water. These results indicated that the induced cells had a high affinity and specificity for mercury.

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