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Vol. 76, No: 10, 2010, Pages: 3143–3152

Microbial Links between Sulfate Reduction and Metal Retention in Uranium- and Heavy Metal-Contaminated Soil

Jana Sitte,1 Denise M. Akob,1,2 Christian Kaufmann,1 Kai Finster,3 Dipanjan Banerjee,4 Eva-Maria Burkhardt,1 Joel E. Kostka,2 Andreas C. Scheinost,4 Georg Bu¨chel,5 and Kirsten Kusel1*

Aquatic Geomicrobiology, Institute of Ecology, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, D-07743 Jena, Germany.


Sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) can affect metal mobility either directly by reductive transformation of metal ions, e.g., uranium, into their insoluble forms or indirectly by formation of metal sulfides. This study evaluated in situ and biostimulated activity of SRB in groundwater-influenced soils from a creek bank contaminated with heavy metals and radionuclides within the former uranium mining district of Ronneburg, Germany. In situ activity of SRB, measured by the 35SO4 2- radiotracer method, was restricted to reduced soil horizons with rates of ≤142±20 nmol cm-3 day-1. Concentrations of heavy metals were enriched in the solid phase of the reduced horizons, whereas pore water concentrations were low. X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) measurements demonstrated that ~80% of uranium was present as reduced uranium but appeared to occur as a sorbed complex. Soil-based dsrAB clone libraries were dominated by sequences affiliated with members of the Desulfobacterales but also the Desulfovibrionales, Syntrophobacteraceae, and Clostridiales. [13C]acetate- and [13C]lactate-biostimulated soil microcosms were dominated by sulfate and Fe(III) reduction. These processes were associated with enrichment of SRB and Geobacteraceae; enriched SRB were closely related to organisms detected in soils by using the dsrAB marker. Concentrations of soluble nickel, cobalt, and occasionally zinc declined ≤100% during anoxic soil incubations. In contrast to results in other studies, soluble uranium increased in carbon-amended treatments, reaching ≤1,407 nM in solution. Our results suggest that (i) ongoing sulfate reduction in contaminated soil resulted in in situ metal attenuation and (ii) the fate of uranium mobility is not predictable and may lead to downstream contamination of adjacent ecosystems.

Keywords:Sulfate-reducing bacteria;Desulfobacterales;Desulfovibrionales,Syntrophobacteraceae;Clostridiales,Geobacteraceae.

Corresponding author: Tel 49 3641 949461, Fax 49 3641 949462

E-mail: Kirsten.Kuesel@uni-jena.de


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