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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Feb;68(2):874-80.

Enzymatic manganese(II) oxidation by metabolically dormant spores of diverse Bacillus species.

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  • 1Marine Biology Research Division and Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0202, USA.


Bacterial spores are renowned for their longevity, ubiquity, and resistance to environmental insults, but virtually nothing is known regarding whether these metabolically dormant structures impact their surrounding chemical environments. In the present study, a number of spore-forming bacteria that produce dormant spores which enzymatically oxidize soluble Mn(II) to insoluble Mn(IV) oxides were isolated from coastal marine sediments. The highly charged and reactive surfaces of biogenic metal oxides dramatically influence the oxidation and sorption of both trace metals and organics in the environment. Prior to this study, the only known Mn(II)-oxidizing sporeformer was the marine Bacillus sp. strain SG-1, an extensively studied bacterium in which Mn(II) oxidation is believed to be catalyzed by a multicopper oxidase, MnxG. Phylogenetic analysis based on 16S rRNA and mnxG sequences obtained from 15 different Mn(II)-oxidizing sporeformers (including SG-1) revealed extensive diversity within the genus Bacillus, with organisms falling into several distinct clusters and lineages. In addition, active Mn(II)-oxidizing proteins of various sizes, as observed in sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide electrophoresis gels, were recovered from the outer layers of purified dormant spores of the isolates. These are the first active Mn(II)-oxidizing enzymes identified in spores or gram-positive bacteria. Although extremely resistant to denaturation, the activities of these enzymes were inhibited by azide and o-phenanthroline, consistent with the involvement of multicopper oxidases. Overall, these studies suggest that the commonly held view that bacterial spores are merely inactive structures in the environment should be revised.

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