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J Bacteriol. 1992 Mar;174(5):1505-14.

Identification of intrinsic high-level resistance to rare-earth oxides and oxyanions in members of the class Proteobacteria: characterization of tellurite, selenite, and rhodium sesquioxide reduction in Rhodobacter sphaeroides.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston 77225.


We have identified intrinsic high-level resistance (HLR) to tellurite, selenite, and at least 15 other rare-earth oxides and oxyanions in the facultative photoheterotroph Rhodobacter sphaeroides grown either chemoheterotrophically or photoheterotrophically. Other members of the class Proteobacteria, including members of the alpha-2 and alpha-3 phylogenetic subgroups, were also shown to effect the reduction of many of these compounds, although genera from the alpha-1, beta-1, and gamma-3 subgroups did not express HLR to the oxyanions examined. Detailed analyses employing R. sphaeroides have shown that HLR to at least one class of these oxyanions, the tellurite class (e.g., tellurate, tellurite, selenate, selenite, and rhodium sesquioxide), occurred via intracellular oxyanion reduction and resulted in deposition of metal in the cytoplasmic membrane. The concomitant evolution of hydrogen gas from cells grown photoheterotrophically in the presence of these oxyanions was also observed. HLR to tellurite class oxyanions in R. sphaeroides was not affected by exogenous methionine or phosphate but was reduced 40-fold by the addition of cysteine to growth media. In contrast HLR to the periodate class oxyanions (e.g., periodate, siliconate, and siliconite) was inhibited by extracellular PO4(3-) but did not result in metal deposition or gas evolution. Finally, we observed that HLR to arsenate class oxyanions (e.g., arsenate, molybdate, and tungstate) occurred by a third, distinct mechanism, as evidenced by the lack of intracellular metal deposition and hydrogen gas evolution and an insensitivity to extracellular PO4(3-) or cysteine. Examination of a number of R. sphaeroides mutants has determined the obligate requirement for an intact CO2 fixation pathway and the presence of a functional photosynthetic electron transport chain to effect HLR to K2TeO3 under photosynthetic growth conditions, whereas functional cytochromes bc1 and c2 were required under aerobic growth conditions to facilitate HLR. Finally, a purification scheme to recover metals from intact bacterial cells was developed.

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