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Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2000 Mar;45(3):198-207.

Microbial resistance to metals in the environment.

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Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506, USA.


Many microorganisms demonstrate resistance to metals in water, soil and industrial waste. Genes located on chromosomes, plasmids, or transposons encode specific resistance to a variety of metal ions. Some metals, such as cobalt, copper, nickel, serve as micronutrients and are used for redox processes, to stabilize molecules through electrostatic interactions, as components of various enzymes, and for regulation of osmotic pressure. Most metals are nonessential, have no nutrient value, and are potentially toxic to microorganisms. These toxic metals interact with essential cellular components through covalent and ionic bonding. At high levels, both essential and nonessential metals can damage cell membranes, alter enzyme specificity, disrupt cellular functions, and damage the structure of DNA. Microorganisms have adapted to the presence of both nutrient and nonessential metals by developing a variety of resistance mechanisms. Six metal resistance mechanisms exist: exclusion by permeability barrier, intra- and extra-cellular sequestration, active transport efflux pumps, enzymatic detoxification, and reduction in the sensitivity of cellular targets to metal ions. The understanding of how microorganisms resist metals can provide insight into strategies for their detoxification or removal from the environment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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