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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 1997 Jul;20(3-4):503-16.

Microbial solubilization and immobilization of toxic metals: key biogeochemical processes for treatment of contamination.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Dundee, UK.


Microorganisms play important roles in the environmental fate of toxic metals with a multiplicity of physico-chemical and biological mechanisms effecting transformations between soluble and insoluble phases. Such mechanisms are important components of natural biogeochemical cycles for metals and metalloids with some processes being of potential application to the treatment of contaminated materials. This paper will concentrate on three selected aspects which illustrate the key importance of microorganisms in effecting changes in metal(loid) solubility, namely toxic metal sulfide precipitation by sulfate-reducing bacteria, heterotrophic leaching by fungi, and microbial transformations of metalloids, which includes reduction and methylation. The basic microbiology of these processes is described as well as their environmental significance and use in bioremediation.

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