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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Sep;79(17):5094-103. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00402-13. Epub 2013 Jun 21.

Bacterially induced weathering of ultramafic rock and its implications for phytoextraction.

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Instituto de Investigacións Agrobiolóxicas de Galicia (IIAG), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Santiago de Compostela, Spain.


The bioavailability of metals in soil is often cited as a limiting factor of phytoextraction (or phytomining). Bacterial metabolites, such as organic acids, siderophores, or biosurfactants, have been shown to mobilize metals, and their use to improve metal extraction has been proposed. In this study, the weathering capacities of, and Ni mobilization by, bacterial strains were evaluated. Minimal medium containing ground ultramafic rock was inoculated with either of two Arthrobacter strains: LA44 (indole acetic acid [IAA] producer) or SBA82 (siderophore producer, PO4 solubilizer, and IAA producer). Trace elements and organic compounds were determined in aliquots taken at different time intervals after inoculation. Trace metal fractionation was carried out on the remaining rock at the end of the experiment. The results suggest that the strains act upon different mineral phases. LA44 is a more efficient Ni mobilizer, apparently solubilizing Ni associated with Mn oxides, and this appeared to be related to oxalate production. SBA82 also leads to release of Ni and Mn, albeit to a much lower extent. In this case, the concurrent mobilization of Fe and Si indicates preferential weathering of Fe oxides and serpentine minerals, possibly related to the siderophore production capacity of the strain. The same bacterial strains were tested in a soil-plant system: the Ni hyperaccumulator Alyssum serpyllifolium subsp. malacitanum was grown in ultramafic soil in a rhizobox system and inoculated with each bacterial strain. At harvest, biomass production and shoot Ni concentrations were higher in plants from inoculated pots than from noninoculated pots. Ni yield was significantly enhanced in plants inoculated with LA44. These results suggest that Ni-mobilizing inoculants could be useful for improving Ni uptake by hyperaccumulator plants.

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