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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1989 Sep;55(9):2333-43.

Selenate reduction to elemental selenium by anaerobic bacteria in sediments and culture: biogeochemical significance of a novel, sulfate-independent respiration.

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Water Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, California 94025, and Tiburon Center, San Francisco State University, Tiburon, California 94920.


Interstitial water profiles of SeO(4), SeO(3), SO(4), and Cl in anoxic sediments indicated removal of the seleno-oxyanions by a near-surface process unrelated to sulfate reduction. In sediment slurry experiments, a complete reductive removal of SeO(4) occurred under anaerobic conditions, was more rapid with H(2) or acetate, and was inhibited by O(2), NO(3), MnO(2), or autoclaving but not by SO(4) or FeOOH. Oxidation of acetate in sediments could be coupled to selenate but not to molybdate. Reduction of selenate to elemental selenium was determined to be the mechanism for loss from solution. Selenate reduction was inhibited by tungstate and chromate but not by molybdate. A small quantity of the elemental selenium precipitated into sediments from solution could be resolublized by oxidation with either nitrate or FeOOH, but not with MnO(2). A bacterium isolated from estuarine sediments demonstrated selenate-dependent growth on acetate, forming elemental selenium and carbon dioxide as respiratory end products. These results indicate that dissimilatory selenate reduction to elemental selenium is the major sink for selenium oxyanions in anoxic sediments. In addition, they suggest application as a treatment process for removing selenium oxyanions from wastewaters and also offer an explanation for the presence of selenite in oxic waters.


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