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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2003 Jun;27(2-3):411-25.

Microbial reduction of metals and radionuclides.

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The Williamson Research Centre for Molecular Environmental Studies, Department of Earth Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK.


The microbial reduction of metals has attracted recent interest as these transformations can play crucial roles in the cycling of both inorganic and organic species in a range of environments and, if harnessed, may offer the basis for a wide range of innovative biotechnological processes. Under certain conditions, however, microbial metal reduction can also mobilise toxic metals with potentially calamitous effects on human health. This review focuses on recent research on the reduction of a wide range of metals including Fe(III), Mn(IV) and other more toxic metals such as Cr(VI), Hg(II), Co(III), Pd(II), Au(III), Ag(I), Mo(VI) and V(V). The reduction of metalloids including As(V) and Se(VI) and radionuclides including U(VI), Np(V) and Tc(VII) is also reviewed. Rapid advances over the last decade have resulted in a detailed understanding of some of these transformations at a molecular level. Where known, the mechanisms of metal reduction are discussed, alongside the environmental impact of such transformations and possible biotechnological applications that could utilise these activities.

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