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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2006 Aug;71(6):892-7. Epub 2005 Nov 17.

Cr(VI) detoxification by Desulfovibrio vulgaris strain Hildenborough: microbe-metal interactions studies.

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Institut de Biologie Structurale et Microbiologie, Unité de Bioénergétique et Ingénierie des Protéines, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 31 chemin Joseph Aiguier, 13402, Marseille cedex 20, France.


Toxic heavy metals constitute a worldwide environmental pollution problem. Bioremediation technologies represent efficient alternatives to the classic cleaning-up of contaminated soil and ground water. Most toxic heavy metals such as chromium are less soluble and toxic when reduced than when oxidized. Sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) are able to reduce heavy metals by a chemical reduction via the production of H2S and by a direct enzymatic process involving hydrogenases and c3 cytochromes. We have previously reported the effects of chromate [Cr(VI)] on SRB bioenergetic metabolism and the molecular mechanism of the metal reduction by polyhemic cytochromes. In the current work, we pinpoint the bacteria-metal interactions using Desulfovibrio vulgaris strain Hildenborough as a model. The bacteria were grown in the presence of high Cr(VI) concentration, where they accumulated precipitates of a reduced form of chromium, trivalent chromium [Cr(III)], on their cell surfaces. Moreover, the inner and outer membranes exhibited precipitates that shared the spectroscopic signature of trivalent chromium. This subcellular localization is consistent with enzymatic metal reduction by cytochromes and hydrogenases. Regarding environmental significance, our findings point out the Cr(VI) immobilization mechanisms of SRB; suggesting that SRB are highly important in metal biogeochemistry.

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