Acidophilic microorganisms inhabit low pH environments such as acid mine drainage that is generated when sulfide minerals are exposed to air. The genome sequence of the psychrotolerant Acidithiobacillus ferrivorans SS3 was compared to a metagenome from a low temperature acidic stream dominated by an A. ferrivorans-like strain. Stretches of genomic DNA characterized by few matches to the metagenome, termed 'metagenomic islands', encoded genes associated with metal efflux and pH homeostasis. The metagenomic islands were enriched in mobile elements such as phage proteins, transposases, integrases and in one case, predicted to be flanked by truncated tRNAs. Cus gene clusters predicted to be involved in copper efflux and further Cus-like RND systems were predicted to be located in metagenomic islands and therefore, constitute part of the flexible gene complement of the species. Phylogenetic analysis of Cus clusters showed both lineage specificity within the Acidithiobacillus genus as well as niche specificity associated with an acidic environment. The metagenomic islands also contained a predicted copper efflux P-type ATPase system and a polyphosphate kinase potentially involved in polyphosphate mediated copper resistance. This study identifies genetic variability of low temperature acidophiles that likely reflects metal resistance selective pressures in the copper rich environment.
Extremely acidophilic microorganisms have an optimal pH of <3 and are found in all three domains of life. As metals are more soluble at acid pH, acidophiles are often challenged by very high metal concentrations. Acidophiles are metal-tolerant by both intrinsic, passive mechanisms as well as active systems. Passive mechanisms include an internal positive membrane potential that creates a chemiosmotic gradient against which metal cations must move, as well as the formation of metal sulfate complexes reducing the concentration of the free metal ion. Active systems include efflux proteins that pump metals out of the cytoplasm and conversion of the metal to a less toxic form. Acidophiles are exploited in a number of biotechnologies including biomining for sulfide mineral dissolution, biosulfidogenesis to produce sulfide that can selectively precipitate metals from process streams, treatment of acid mine drainage, and bioremediation of acidic metal-contaminated milieux. This review describes how acidophilic microorganisms tolerate extremely high metal concentrations in biotechnological processes and identifies areas of future work that hold promise for improving the efficiency of these applications.
All metals are toxic at high concentrations and consequently their intracellular concentrations must be regulated. Extremely acidophilic microorganisms have an optimum growth of pH <3 and proliferate in natural and anthropogenic low pH environments. Some acidophiles are involved in the catalysis of sulfide mineral dissolution, resulting in high concentrations of metals in solution. Acidophiles are often described as highly metal resistant via mechanisms such as multiple and/or more efficient active resistance systems than are present in neutrophiles. However, this is not the case for all acidophiles and we contend that their growth in high metal concentrations is partially due to an intrinsic tolerance as a consequence of the environment in which they live. In this perspective, we highlight metal tolerance via complexation of free metals by sulfate ions and passive tolerance to metal influx via an internal positive cytoplasmic transmembrane potential. These tolerance mechanisms have been largely ignored in past studies of acidophile growth in the presence of metals and should be taken into account.
Maintenance of a circumneutral intracellular pH is important for any organism. Acidophilic microorganisms thrive at low pH while maintaining their intracellular pH around 6.5. However, the mechanisms contributing to acidophile pH homeostasis are not well characterized. The authors investigated the proteomic response and cytoplasmic membrane fatty acid profiles of Acidithiobacillus caldus toward three pH values: 1.1, 2.5, and 4.0. Major rearrangements were observed but lower pH elicited larger changes. Differentially expressed transcription factors suggested tight transcriptional control of pH induced genes. Enzymes involved in sulfur metabolism were up-regulated at pH 1.1 suggesting either that: (1) cells required more energy for maintenance or (2) increased metabolic activity was a specific acid stress response to export intracellular protons via 1° electron transport proton pumps. Furthermore, glutamate decarboxylase, an important enzyme in Escherichia coli acid resistance, was uniquely expressed at pH 1.1. Other proteins previously shown to be involved in neutrophilic acid response, such as spermidine synthase, PspA, and toluene tolerance protein, were differentially expressed in At. caldus but require further investigation to show a direct link to pH homeostasis. Their roles in acidophilic organisms are discussed. Active modulation of fatty acid profiles was detected and suggested a more rigid membrane at low pH.
Soils containing an approximately equal mixture of metastable iron sulfides and pyrite occur in the boreal Ostrobothnian coastal region of Finland, termed potential acid sulfate soil materials. If the iron sulfides are exposed to air, oxidation reactions result in acid and metal release to the environment that can cause severe damage. Despite that acidophilic microorganisms catalyze acid and metal release from sulfide minerals, the microbiology of acid sulfate soil (ASS) materials has been neglected. The molecular phylogeny of a depth profile through the plough and oxidized ASS layers identified several known acidophilic microorganisms and environmental clones previously identified from acid- and metal-contaminated environments. In addition, several of the 16S rRNA gene sequences were more similar to sequences previously identified from cold environments. Leaching of the metastable iron sulfides and pyrite with an ASS microbial enrichment culture incubated at low pH accelerated metal release, suggesting microorganisms capable of catalyzing metal sulfide oxidation were present. The 16S rRNA gene analysis showed the presence of species similar to Acidocella sp. and other clones identified from acid mine environments. These data support that acid and metal release from ASSs was catalyzed by indigenous microorganisms adapted to low pH.
Gene transcription (microarrays) and protein levels (proteomics) were compared in cultures of the acidophilic chemolithotroph Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans grown on elemental sulfur as the electron donor under aerobic and anaerobic conditions, using either molecular oxygen or ferric iron as the electron acceptor, respectively. No evidence supporting the role of either tetrathionate hydrolase or arsenic reductase in mediating the transfer of electrons to ferric iron (as suggested by previous studies) was obtained. In addition, no novel ferric iron reductase was identified. However, data suggested that sulfur was disproportionated under anaerobic conditions, forming hydrogen sulfide via sulfur reductase and sulfate via heterodisulfide reductase and ATP sulfurylase. Supporting physiological evidence for H2S production came from the observation that soluble Cu(2+) included in anaerobically incubated cultures was precipitated (seemingly as CuS). Since H(2)S reduces ferric iron to ferrous in acidic medium, its production under anaerobic conditions indicates that anaerobic iron reduction is mediated, at least in part, by an indirect mechanism. Evidence was obtained for an alternative model implicating the transfer of electrons from S(0) to Fe(3+) via a respiratory chain that includes a bc(1) complex and a cytochrome c. Central carbon pathways were upregulated under aerobic conditions, correlating with higher growth rates, while many Calvin-Benson-Bassham cycle components were upregulated during anaerobic growth, probably as a result of more limited access to carbon dioxide. These results are important for understanding the role of A. ferrooxidans in environmental biogeochemical metal cycling and in industrial bioleaching operations.
Acidithiobacillus caldus is a sulfur oxidizing extreme acidophile and the only known mesothermophile within the Acidithiobacillales. As such, it is one of the preferred microbes for mineral bioprocessing at moderately high temperatures. In this study, we explore the genomic diversity of A. caldus strains using a combination of bioinformatic and experimental techniques, thus contributing first insights into the elucidation of the species pangenome.
Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans is a mesophilic, extremely acidophilic, chemolithoautotrophic gammaproteobacterium that derives energy from the oxidation of sulfur and inorganic sulfur compounds. Here we present the draft genome sequence of A. thiooxidans ATCC 19377, which has allowed the identification of genes for survival and colonization of extremely acidic environments.
High concentrations of chloride ions inhibit the growth of acidophilic microorganisms used in biomining, a problem particularly relevant to Western Australian and Chilean biomining operations. Despite this, little is known about the mechanisms acidophiles adopt in order to tolerate high chloride ion concentrations. This study aimed to investigate the impact of increasing concentrations of chloride ions on the population dynamics of a mixed culture during pyrite bioleaching and apply proteomics to elucidate how two species from this mixed culture alter their proteomes under chloride stress. A mixture consisting of well-known biomining microorganisms and an enrichment culture obtained from an acidic saline drain were tested for their ability to bioleach pyrite in the presence of 0, 3.5, 7, and 20 g L(-1) NaCl. Microorganisms from the enrichment culture were found to out-compete the known biomining microorganisms, independent of the chloride ion concentration. The proteomes of the Gram-positive acidophile Acidimicrobium ferrooxidans and the Gram-negative acidophile Acidithiobacillus caldus grown in the presence or absence of chloride ions were investigated. Analysis of differential expression showed that acidophilic microorganisms adopted several changes in their proteomes in the presence of chloride ions, suggesting the following strategies to combat the NaCl stress: adaptation of the cell membrane, the accumulation of amino acids possibly as a form of osmoprotectant, and the expression of a YceI family protein involved in acid and osmotic-related stress.
Acidithiobacillus ferrivorans SS3 is a psychrotolerant acidophile capable of growth in the range of 5° to 30°C (optimum, ?25°C). It gains energy from the oxidation of ferrous iron and inorganic sulfur compounds and obtains organic carbon from carbon dioxide. Here, we present the draft genome sequence of A. ferrivorans SS3 that will permit investigation of genes involved in growth in acidic environments at low temperatures.
Given the challenges to life at low pH, an analysis of inorganic sulfur compound (ISC) oxidation was initiated in the chemolithoautotrophic extremophile Acidithiobacillus caldus. A. caldus is able to metabolize elemental sulfur and a broad range of ISCs. It has been implicated in the production of environmentally damaging acidic solutions as well as participating in industrial bioleaching operations where it forms part of microbial consortia used for the recovery of metal ions. Based upon the recently published A. caldus type strain genome sequence, a bioinformatic reconstruction of elemental sulfur and ISC metabolism predicted genes included: sulfide-quinone reductase (sqr), tetrathionate hydrolase (tth), two sox gene clusters potentially involved in thiosulfate oxidation (soxABXYZ), sulfur oxygenase reductase (sor), and various electron transport components. RNA transcript profiles by semi quantitative reverse transcription PCR suggested up-regulation of sox genes in the presence of tetrathionate. Extensive gel based proteomic comparisons of total soluble and membrane enriched protein fractions during growth on elemental sulfur and tetrathionate identified differential protein levels from the two Sox clusters as well as several chaperone and stress proteins up-regulated in the presence of elemental sulfur. Proteomics results also suggested the involvement of heterodisulfide reductase (HdrABC) in A. caldus ISC metabolism. A putative new function of Hdr in acidophiles is discussed. Additional proteomic analysis evaluated protein expression differences between cells grown attached to solid, elemental sulfur versus planktonic cells. This study has provided insights into sulfur metabolism of this acidophilic chemolithotroph and gene expression during attachment to solid elemental sulfur.
Process water and effluents from mining operations treating sulfide rich ores often contain considerable concentrations of metastable inorganic sulfur compounds such as thiosulfate and tetrathionate. These species may cause environmental problems if released to downstream recipients due to oxidation to sulfuric acid catalyzed by acidophilic microorganisms. Molecular phylogenic analysis of the tailings pond and recipient streams identified psychrotolerant and mesophilic inorganic sulfur compound oxidizing microorganisms. This suggested year round thiosalt oxidation occurs. Mining process waters may also contain inhibiting substances such as thiocyanate from cyanidation plants. However, toxicity experiments suggested their expected concentrations would not inhibit thiosalt oxidation by Acidithiobacillus ferrivorans SS3. A mixed culture from a permanently cold (4-6 °C) low pH environment was tested for thiosalt removal in a reactor design including a biogenerator and a main reactor containing a biofilm carrier. The biogenerator and main reactors were successively reduced in temperature to 5-6 °C when 43.8% of the chemical oxidation demand was removed. However, it was found that the oxidation of thiosulfate was not fully completed to sulfate since low residual concentrations of tetrathionate and trithionate were found in the discharge. This study has demonstrated the potential of using biotechnological solutions to remove inorganic sulfur compounds at 6°C and thus, reduce the impact of mining on the environment.
Ferroplasma acidarmanus Fer1 is an iron-oxidizing extreme acidophile isolated from the Iron Mountain mine, California, USA. This archaeon is predominantly found in biofilm-associated structures in the environment, and produces two distinct biofilm morphologies. Bioinformatic analysis of the F. acidarmanus Fer1 genome identified genes annotated as involved in attachment and biofilm formation. No putative quorum sensing signaling genes were identified and no N-acyl homoserine lactone-like compounds were found in F. acidarmanus Fer1 biofilm supernatant. Scanning confocal microscopy analysis of biofilm development on the surface of pyrite demonstrated the temporal and spatial development of biofilm growth. Furthermore, two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis was used to examine differential protein expression patterns between biofilm and planktonic populations. Ten up-regulated proteins were identified that included six enzymes associated with anaerobic growth, suggesting that the dominating phenotype in the mature biofilm was associated with anaerobic modes of growth. This report increases our knowledge of the genetic and proteomic basis of biofilm formation in an extreme acidophilic archaeon.
Extremely acidophilic archaea from the genus Ferroplasma inhabit iron-rich biomining environments and are important constituents of naturally occurring microbial consortia that catalyze the production of acid mine drainage. A combined bioinformatic, transcript profiling, and proteomic approach was used to elucidate iron homeostasis mechanisms in "F. acidarmanus" Fer1 and F. acidiphilum Y(T) . Bioinformatic analysis of the "F. acidarmanus" Fer1 genome sequence revealed genes encoding proteins hypothesized to be involved in iron-dependent gene regulation and siderophore biosynthesis; the Fhu and NRAMP cation acquisition systems; iron storage proteins; and the SUF machinery for the biogenesis of Fe-S clusters. A subset of homologous genes was identified on the F. acidiphilum Y(T) chromosome by direct PCR probing. In both strains, some of the genes appeared to be regulated in a ferrous/ferric iron-dependent manner, as indicated by RT-PCR. A detailed gel-based proteomics analysis of responses to iron depletion showed that a putative isochorismatase, presumably involved in siderophore biosynthesis, and the SufBCD system were upregulated under iron-limiting conditions. No evidence was obtained for iron sparing response during iron limitation. This study constitutes the first detailed investigation of iron homeostasis in extremely acidophilic archaea.
Acidic industrial process and wastewaters often contain high sulfate and metal concentrations and their direct biological treatment is thus far not possible as biological processes at pH < 5 have been neglected. Sulfate-reducing bacteria convert sulfate to sulfide that can subsequently be used to recover metals as metal-sulfides precipitate. This study reports on high-rate sulfate reduction with a mixed microbial community at pH 4.0 and 4.5 with hydrogen and/or formate as electron donors. The maximum sulfate reducing activity at pH 4.0 was sustained for over 40 days with a specific activity 500-fold greater than previously reported values: 151 mmol sulfate reduced/L reactor liquid per day with a maximum specific activity of 84 mmol sulfate per gram of volatile suspended solids per day. The biomass yield gradually decreased from 38 to 0.4 g volatile suspended solids per kilogram of sulfate when decreasing the reactor pH from pH 6 to 4. The microorganisms had a high maintenance requirement probably due maintaining pH homeostasis and the toxicity of sulfide at low pH. The microbial community diversity in the pH 4.0 membrane bioreactor decreased over time, while the diversity of the sulfate reducing community increased. Thus, a specialized microbial community containing a lower proportion of microorganisms capable of activity at pH 4 developed in the reactor compared with those present at the start of the experiment. The 16S rRNA genes identified from the pH 4.0 grown mixed culture were most similar to those of Desulfovibrio species and Desulfosporosinus sp. M1.
Biomining is the use of microorganisms to catalyze metal extraction from sulfide ores. However, the available water in some biomining environments has high chloride concentrations and therefore, chloride toxicity to ferrous oxidizing microorganisms has been investigated. Batch biooxidation of Fe(2+) by a Leptospirillum ferriphilum-dominated culture was completely inhibited by 12 g L(-1) chloride. In addition, the effects of chloride on oxidation kinetics in a Fe(2+) limited chemostat were studied. Results from the chemostat modeling suggest that the chloride toxicity was attributed to affects on the Fe(2+) oxidation system, pH homeostasis, and lowering of the proton motive force. Modeling showed a decrease in the maximum specific growth rate (micro(max)) and an increase in the substrate constant (K(s)) with increasing chloride concentrations, indicating an effect on the Fe(2+) oxidation system. The model proposes a lowered maintenance activity when the media was fed with 2-3 g L(-1) chloride with a concomitant drastic decrease in the true yield (Y(true)). This model helps to understand the influence of chloride on Fe(2+) biooxidation kinetics.
High rate sulfate reduction under acidic conditions opens possibilities for new process flow sheets that allow the selective recovery of metals from mining and metallurgical waste and process water. However, knowledge about high-rate sulfate reduction under acidic conditions is limited. This paper investigates sulfate reduction in a membrane bioreactor at a controlled pH of 5. Sulfate and formate were dosed using a pH-auxostat system while formate was converted into hydrogen, which was used for sulfate reduction. Sulfide was removed from the gas phase to prevent sulfide inhibition. This study shows a high-rate sulfate-reducing bioreactor system for the first time at pH 5, with a volumetric activity of 188mmol SO(4)(2-)/I/d and a specific activity of 81mmol SO(4)(2-) volatile suspended. The microbial community at the end of the reactor run consisted of a diverse mixed population including sulfate-reducing bacteria.
Acidithiobacillus caldus is an extremely acidophilic, moderately thermophilic, chemolithoautotrophic gammaproteobacterium that derives energy from the oxidation of sulfur and reduced inorganic sulfur compounds. Here we present the draft genome sequence of Acidithiobacillus caldus ATCC 51756 (the type strain of the species), which has permitted the prediction of genes for survival in extremely acidic environments, including genes for sulfur oxidation and nutrient assimilation.
Of all the molecular determinants for growth, the hydronium and hydroxide ions are found naturally in the widest concentration range, from acid mine drainage below pH 0 to soda lakes above pH 13. Most bacteria and archaea have mechanisms that maintain their internal, cytoplasmic pH within a narrower range than the pH outside the cell, termed "pH homeostasis." Some mechanisms of pH homeostasis are specific to particular species or groups of microorganisms while some common principles apply across the pH spectrum. The measurement of internal pH of microbes presents challenges, which are addressed by a range of techniques under varying growth conditions. This review compares and contrasts cytoplasmic pH homeostasis in acidophilic, neutralophilic, and alkaliphilic bacteria and archaea under conditions of growth, non-growth survival, and biofilms. We present diverse mechanisms of pH homeostasis including cell buffering, adaptations of membrane structure, active ion transport, and metabolic consumption of acids and bases.
Mesophilic iron and sulfur-oxidizing acidophiles are readily found in acid mine drainage sites and bioleaching operations, but relatively little is known about their activities at suboptimal temperatures and in cold environments. The purpose of this work was to characterize the oxidation of elemental sulfur (S(0)), tetrathionate (S4O6(2-)) and ferrous iron (Fe2+) by the psychrotolerant Acidithiobacillus strain SS3. The rates of elemental sulfur and tetrathionate oxidation had temperature optima of 20 degrees and 25 degrees C, respectively, determined using a temperature gradient incubator that involved narrow (1.1 degrees C) incremental increases from 5 degrees to 30 degrees C. Activation energies calculated from the Arrhenius plots were 61 and 89 kJ mol(-1) for tetrathionate and 110 kJ mol(-1) for S(0) oxidation. The oxidation of elemental sulfur produced sulfuric acid at 5 degrees C and decreased the pH to approximately 1. The low pH inhibited further oxidation of the substrate. In media with both S(0) and Fe2+, oxidation of elemental sulfur did not commence until all available ferrous iron was oxidized. These data on sequential oxidation of the two substrates are in keeping with upregulation and downregulation of several proteins previously noted in the literature. Ferric iron was reduced to Fe2+ in parallel with elemental sulfur oxidation, indicating the presence of a sulfur:ferric iron reductase system in this bacterium.
Process streams with high concentrations of metals and sulfate are characteristic for the mining and metallurgical industries. This study aims to selectively recover nickel from a nickel-iron-containing solution at pH 5.0 using a single stage bioreactor that simultaneously combines low pH sulfate reduction and metal-sulfide formation. The results show that nickel was selectively precipitated in the bioreactor at pH 5.0 and the precipitates consisted of >or=83% of the nickel content. The nickel-iron precipitates were partly crystalline and had a metal/sulfur ratio of 1, suggesting these precipitates were NiS and FeS. Experiments focusing on nickel recovery at pH 5.0 and 5.5 reached a recovery of >99.9%, resulting in a nickel effluent concentration<0.05 microM. The mixed microbial population included known sulfate reducers and acetogens. This study shows that selective metal precipitation in a single stage sulfate reducing bioreactor operated at low pH has the potential to produce metal-sulfides that can be used by the metallurgical industry as a resource for metal production.
Waste streams from industrial processes such as metal smelting or mining contain high concentrations of sulfate and metals with low pH. Dissimilatory sulfate reduction carried out by sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) at low pH can combine sulfate reduction with metal-sulfide precipitation and thus open possibilities for selective metal recovery. This study investigates the microbial diversity and population changes of a single-stage sulfidogenic gas-lift bioreactor treating synthetic zinc-rich waste water at pH 5.5 by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis of 16S rRNA gene fragments and quantitative polymerase chain reaction. The results indicate the presence of a diverse range of phylogenetic groups with the predominant microbial populations belonging to the Desulfovibrionaceae from delta-Proteobacteria. Desulfovibrio desulfuricans-like populations were the most abundant among the SRB during the three stable phases of varying sulfide and zinc concentrations and increased from 13% to 54% of the total bacterial populations over time. The second largest group was Desulfovibrio marrakechensis-like SRB that increased from 1% to about 10% with decreasing sulfide concentrations. Desulfovibrio aminophilus-like populations were the only SRB to decrease in numbers with decreasing sulfide concentrations. However, their population was <1% of the total bacterial population in the reactor at all analyzed time points. The number of dissimilatory sulfate reductase (DsrA) gene copies per number of SRB cells decreased from 3.5 to 2 DsrA copies when the sulfide concentration was reduced, suggesting that the cells sulfate-reducing capacity was also lowered. This study has identified the species present in a single-stage sulfidogenic bioreactor treating zinc-rich wastewater at low pH and provides insights into the microbial ecology of this biotechnological process.
The psychrotolerant acidophile Acidithiobacillus ferrivorans has been identified from cold environments and has been shown to use ferrous iron and inorganic sulfur compounds as its energy sources. A bioinformatic evaluation presented in this study suggested that Acidithiobacillus ferrivorans utilized a ferrous iron oxidation pathway similar to that of the related species Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans. However, the inorganic sulfur oxidation pathway was less clear, since the Acidithiobacillus ferrivorans genome contained genes from both Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans and Acidithiobacillus caldus encoding enzymes whose assigned functions are redundant. Transcriptional analysis revealed that the petA1 and petB1 genes (implicated in ferrous iron oxidation) were downregulated upon growth on the inorganic sulfur compound tetrathionate but were on average 10.5-fold upregulated in the presence of ferrous iron. In contrast, expression of cyoB1 (involved in inorganic sulfur compound oxidation) was decreased 6.6-fold upon growth on ferrous iron alone. Competition assays between ferrous iron and tetrathionate with Acidithiobacillus ferrivorans SS3 precultured on chalcopyrite mineral showed a preference for ferrous iron oxidation over tetrathionate oxidation. Also, pure and mixed cultures of psychrotolerant acidophiles were utilized for the bioleaching of metal sulfide minerals in stirred tank reactors at 5 and 25°C in order to investigate the fate of ferrous iron and inorganic sulfur compounds. Solid sulfur accumulated in bioleaching cultures growing on a chalcopyrite concentrate. Sulfur accumulation halted mineral solubilization, but sulfur was oxidized after metal release had ceased. The data indicated that ferrous iron was preferentially oxidized during growth on chalcopyrite, a finding with important implications for biomining in cold environments.
Zinc can occur in extremely high concentrations in acidic, heavy metal polluted environments inhabited by acidophilic prokaryotes. Although these organisms are able to thrive in such severely contaminated ecosystems their resistance mechanisms have not been well studied. Bioinformatic analysis of a range of acidophilic bacterial and archaeal genomes identified homologues of several known zinc homeostasis systems. These included primary and secondary transporters, such as the primary heavy metal exporter ZntA and Nramp super-family secondary importer MntH. Three acidophilic model microorganisms, the archaeon Ferroplasma acidarmanus, the Gram negative bacterium Acidithiobacillus caldus, and the Gram positive bacterium Acidimicrobium ferrooxidans, were selected for detailed analyses. Zinc speciation modeling of the growth media demonstrated that a large fraction of the free metal ion is complexed, potentially affecting its toxicity. Indeed, many of the putative zinc homeostasis genes were constitutively expressed and with the exception of F. acidarmanus ZntA, they were not up-regulated in the presence of excess zinc. Proteomic analysis revealed that zinc played a role in oxidative stress in At. caldus and Am. ferrooxidans. Furthermore, F. acidarmanus kept a constant level of intracellular zinc over all conditions tested whereas the intracellular levels increased with increasing zinc exposure in the remaining organisms.
Extremely acidic, sulfur-rich environments can be natural, such as solfatara fields in geothermal and volcanic areas, or anthropogenic, such as acid mine drainage waters. Many species of acidophilic bacteria and archaea are known to be involved in redox transformations of sulfur, using elemental sulfur and inorganic sulfur compounds as electron donors or acceptors in reactions involving between one and eight electrons. This minireview describes the nature and origins of acidic, sulfur-rich environments, the biodiversity of sulfur-metabolizing acidophiles, and how sulfur is metabolized and assimilated by acidophiles under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Finally, existing and developing technologies that harness the abilities of sulfur-oxidizing and sulfate-reducing acidophiles to extract and capture metals, and to remediate sulfur-polluted waste waters are outlined.
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