Hao, L; Guo, Y; Byrne, JM; Zeitvogel, F; Schmid, G; Ingino, P; Li, J; Neu T., TR; Swanner, ED; Kappler, A; Obst, M: Binding of heavy metal ions in aggregates of microbial cells, EPS and biogenic iron minerals measured in-situ using metal- and glycoconjugates-specific fluorophores, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 180, 66-96 (2016), online: 2016-02-18, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2016.02.016 [Link]

Aggregates consisting of bacterial cells, extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and Fe(III) minerals formed by Fe(II)- oxidizing bacteria are common at bulk or microscale chemical interfaces where Fe cycling occurs. The high sorption capacity and binding capacity of cells, EPS, and minerals controls the mobility and fate of heavy metals. However, it remains unclear to which of these component(s) the metals will bind in complex aggregates. To clarify this question, the present study focuses on 3D mapping of heavy metals sorbed to cells, glycoconjugates that comprise the majority of EPS constituents, and Fe(III) mineral aggregates formed by the phototrophic Fe(II)-oxidizing bacteria Rhodobacter ferrooxidans SW2 using confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) in combination with metal- and glycoconjugates-specific fluorophores. The present study evaluated the influence of glycoconjugates, microbial cell surfaces, and (biogenic) Fe(III) minerals, and the availability of ferrous and ferric iron on heavy metal sorption. Analyses in this study provide detailed knowledge on the spatial distribution of metal ions in the aggregates at the sub-lm scale, which is essential to understand the underlying mechanisms of microbe–mineral–metal interac- tions. The heavy metals (Au3+, Cd2+, Cr3+, CrO42-, Cu2+, Hg2+, Ni2+, Pd2+, tributyltin (TBT) and Zn2+) were found mainly sorbed to cell surfaces, present within the glycoconjugates matrix, and bound to the mineral surfaces, but not incorporated into the biogenic Fe(III) minerals. Statistical analysis revealed that all ten heavy metals tested showed relatively similar sorption behavior that was affected by the presence of sorbed ferrous and ferric iron. Results in this study showed that in addition to the mineral surfaces, both bacterial cell surfaces and the glycoconjugates provided most of sorption sites for heavy metals. Simultaneously, ferrous and ferric iron ions competed with the heavy metals for sorption sites on the organic compounds. In summary, the information obtained by the present approach using a microbial model system provides important information to better understand the interactions between heavy metals and biofilms, and microbially formed Fe(III) minerals and heavy metals in complex natural environments.

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