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Environ Microbiol. 2007 Sep;9(9):2321-30.

Microbial uranium immobilization independent of nitrate reduction.

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Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, USA.


At many uranium processing and handling facilities, including sites in the US Department of Energy (DOE) complex, high levels of nitrate are present as co-contamination with uranium in groundwater. The daunting prospect of complete nitrate removal prior to the reduction of uranium provides a strong incentive to explore bioremediation strategies that allow for uranium bioreduction and stabilization in the presence of nitrate. Typical in situ strategies involving the stimulation of metal-reducing bacteria are hindered by low-pH environments and require that the persistent nitrate must first and continuously be removed or transformed prior to uranium being a preferred electron acceptor. This work investigated the possibility of stimulating nitrate-indifferent, pH-tolerant microorganisms to achieve bioreduction of U(VI) despite nitrate persistence. Enrichments from U-contaminated sediments demonstrated nearly complete reduction of uranium with very little loss of nitrate from pH 5.7-6.2 using methanol or glycerol as a carbon source. Bacterial 16S rRNA genes were amplified from uranium-reducing enrichments (pH 5.7-6.2) and sequenced. Phylogenetic analyses classified the clone sequences into four distinct clusters. Data from sequencing and terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) profiles indicated that the majority of the microorganisms stimulated by these enrichment conditions consisted of low G+C Gram-positive bacteria most closely related to Clostridium and Clostridium-like organisms. This research demonstrates that the stimulation of a natural microbial community to immobilize U through bioreduction is possible without the removal of nitrate.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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