How bacteria can survive in acidic, metal rich environments

Nov 19, 2012 by Anna-Lena Lindskog

Acid-loving bacteria thrive in sour, acidic places and can help to dissolve metal. Therefore they are often used for industrial metal extraction. In her doctoral thesis "Growth and Survival of Acidithiobacilli in Acidic, Metal Rich Environments" Stefanie Mangold, Umeå University, has explored basic mechanisms of these very special bacteria.

"Acidithibacilli are very powerful, for example one forth of the worlds copper is extracted with these . But they can also cause environmental problems, for example with abandoned mine sites. That's why basic research into these bacteria is important. If we understand the processes we may also at some stage control pollution problems better," says Stefanie Mangold, the Institution of , Umeå University.

The special property of acid-loving bacteria is that they can live in extremely acidic places highly polluted with metals, where no other organisms can survive. They also have a natural capacity to solubilize metal ores and are often used for industrial metal extraction.

To gain insight into how these microorganisms can thrive in such an unfriendly environment, Stefanie Mangold has investigated metabolism, metal resistance and pH with focus on two model organisms, Acidithiobacillus caldus (At. caldus) and Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans (At. ferrooxidans).

Pathways of how At. caldus can break down sulfur compounds to gain energy were suggested. This might eventually help to optimize industrial metal extraction as the degradition of is an important step in the breakdown of metal ores.

Furthermore, it was studied how At. ferrooxidans can grow without using oxygen, which is of interest for metal extraction in large piles of metal ore where anaerobic zones can exist. Finally the knowledge of how these microbes can survive stress due to metals and acid might also help in fine tuning .

Explore further: Another reason to be thankful: Turkeys may be lifesavers

More information: urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-60439

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sulphur-eating bacteria limit acid run-off and CO2

Jan 15, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) is caused when sulphur in mine tailings reacts with water and oxygen in the environment to produce sulphuric acid. It is a major environmental issue, with AMD a concern ...

Recommended for you

Students create microbe to weaken superbug

7 hours ago

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo have designed a synthetic organism that may one day help doctors treat MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug.

Body size requires hormones under control

15 hours ago

The proper regulation of body size is of fundamental importance, but the mechanisms that stop growth are still unclear. In a study now published in the scientific journal eLife, a research group from Instit ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.