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Vol. 122, No. xx , 2004; Pages: 109– 119

Microbial influence on metal mobility and application for bioremediation

Geoffrey M. Gadd*

Division of Environmental and Applied Biology, Biological Sciences Institute, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN, Scotland, UK.


Microorganisms are intimately involved in metal biogeochemistry with a variety of processes determining mobility, and therefore, bioavailability. The balance between mobilization and immobilization varies depending on the organisms involved, their environment and physicochemical conditions. Metal mobilization can arise from a variety of leaching mechanisms, complexation by metabolites and siderophores, and methylation, where this results in volatilization. Immobilization can result from sorption to biomass or exopolymers, transport and intracellular sequestration or precipitation as organic and inorganic compounds, e.g., oxalates (fungi) and sulfides. In addition, reduction of higher valency species may effect mobilization, e.g., Mn(IV) to Mn(II), or immobilization, e.g., Cr(VI) to Cr(III). In the context of bioremediation, solubilization of metal contaminants provides a means of removal from solid matrices, such as soils, sediments, dumps and other solid industrial wastes. Alternatively, immobilization processes may enable metals to be transformed in situ and are particularly applicable to removing metals from aqueous solution. This contribution will outline selected microbiological processes which are of significance in determining metal mobility and which have actual and potential application in bioremediation of metal pollution. These include autotrophic and heterotrophic leaching mechanisms, reductive precipitation, sulfate reduction and metal sulfide precipitation.

Keywords:Microorganisms, Toxic metals, Radionuclides, Bioremediation, Biogeochemical cycles, Metal mobility, Metal immobilization, Metal transformations,radionuclides.

Corresponding author: Tel +44-1382-344765; fax +44-1382-348216

E-mail: g.m.gadd@dundee.ac.uk


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