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Biotechnol Adv. 2006 Mar-Apr;24(2):197-211. Epub 2005 Nov 8.

Genomics, metagenomics and proteomics in biomining microorganisms.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology, Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile.


The use of acidophilic, chemolithotrophic microorganisms capable of oxidizing iron and sulfur in industrial processes to recover metals from minerals containing copper, gold and uranium is a well established biotechnology with distinctive advantages over traditional mining. A consortium of different microorganisms participates in the oxidative reactions resulting in the extraction of dissolved metal values from ores. Considerable effort has been spent in the last years to understand the biochemistry of iron and sulfur compounds oxidation, bacteria-mineral interactions (chemotaxis, quorum sensing, adhesion, biofilm formation) and several adaptive responses allowing the microorganisms to survive in a bioleaching environment. All of these are considered key phenomena for understanding the process of biomining. The use of genomics, metagenomics and high throughput proteomics to study the global regulatory responses that the biomining community uses to adapt to their changing environment is just beginning to emerge in the last years. These powerful approaches are reviewed here since they offer the possibility of exciting new findings that will allow analyzing the community as a microbial system, determining the extent to which each of the individual participants contributes to the process, how they evolve in time to keep the conglomerate healthy and therefore efficient during the entire process of bioleaching.

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