Fundamental Aspects of the Solubilization of Minerals by Bacteria
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Jan 1, 1993
A principal long-term goal of this laboratory is to achieve a detailed understanding at the molecular level of the microbial-dependent solubilization of minerals. Three recent advances in this research are summarized. (i) An in situ electrolytic procedure is described whereby large quantities of autotrophic iron-oxidizing organisms may be achieved for fundamental or applied studies. Over 600 grams wet weight of Thiobacillus ferrooxidans were harvested from a single 55-gallon growth vessel. (ii) A basis is presented for classifying some 70 different iron-oxidizing bacteria into one of 4 categories, depending on the type of redox-active electron transport proteins expressed during aerobic respiration on reduced iron. Comparative spectroscopic analyses indicated that different electron transport mechanisms exist in different genera and species of acidophilic bacteria that respire on iron. (iii) A method is introduced to investigate the binding interaction between bacteria and minerals, based on changes in the electrokinetic properties of the two species. Preliminary experiments indicated that the electrophoretic mobilities of pyrite and Thiobacillus ferrooxidans were both altered when the two colloid particles were mixed prior to the actual electrokinetic measurement. The need for more basic information regarding all aspects of the microbial-dependent solubilization of minerals is evident.