Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Microbes At Work Cleaning Up The Environment

Date:
June 15, 2007
Source:
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Summary:
It may sound counterintuitive to use a microbial protein to improve water quality. But some bacteria are doing just that to protect themselves from potentially toxic nanoparticles in their own environments, and clean up crews of the future could potentially do the same thing on a larger scale.

It may sound counterintuitive to use a microbial protein to improve water quality. But some bacteria are doing just that to protect themselves from potentially toxic nanoparticles in their own environments, and clean up crews of the future could potentially do the same thing on a larger scale.

A team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that bacteria from an abandoned mine excrete proteins that cause metal nanoparticles to aggregate. The bacteria are binding and immobilizing the metals in the nanoparticles and the nanoparticles themselves, which are potentially toxic to the bacteria.

Sulfate-reducing bacteria can cause heavy metals such as zinc (Zn) to precipitate and form nanoparticles. However, these particles are able to move freely because they are so small (typically 2-6 nanometers in diameter) and can redissolve if conditions change.

In the case of the mine bacteria, the researchers showed that the bacteria are causing the nanoparticle aggregation, thereby protecting themselves. When the metal nanoparticles aggregate, they don't move as easily and are less soluble.

Using secondary ion mass spectrometry, transmission electron microscopy and infra-red spectroscopy, the scientists were able to study whether protein contributes to the formation of densely aggregated nanoparticulate zinc sulfide spheroids.

They also studied whether various amino acids induce rapid aggregation in metal-sulfide nanoparticles.

The answer was yes in both cases.

"This demonstrates an extracellular biomineralization mechanism that is unexpected because it involves the bacteria excreting proteins for nanoparticle aggregation away from the cells," said Peter Weber, one of the LLNL authors of the paper appearing in the June 15 edition of the journal Science.

Weber and LLNL colleague Ian Hutcheon used LLNL's NanoSIMS (high- resolution secondary ion mass spectrometer) to study the metal-sulfide nanoparticle aggregation in sulfate-reducing bacteria dominated biofilms collected from the Piquette Mine, a flooded system in southwestern Wisconsin.

The team found that organic nitrogen was highly concentrated in all of the zinc-sulfide aggregates, indicating a high protein or polypeptide content relative to inorganic zinc-sulfide minerals. In combination with the other techniques and experiments, the team concluded that the protein caused the zinc-sulfide nanoparticle aggregation.

The researchers conducted experiments guided by known bacterial metal-binding proteins that bind zinc and other potentially toxic metals at cysteine locales. Cysteine is a sulfur-containing amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.

The researchers found that inorganic aggregation of zinc-sulfide initially occurred rapidly to 100-nanometer diameter aggregates but then slowed or ceased after one week. However, zinc-sulfide nanoparticles in the presence of cysteine displayed more extensive and prolonged aggregation, accumulating up to 1-10 micron (1/1000th of a millimeter)-sized structures.

"Potentially we can use cysteine or cysteine-rich polypeptides or proteins for nanoparticle clean up," Weber said. "With the boom in nanoscience, people are naturally asking questions about the potential environmental impacts. Here, we see that naturally produced nanoparticles can be naturally controlled."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "Microbes At Work Cleaning Up The Environment." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 June 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070614155347.htm>.
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. (2007, June 15). Microbes At Work Cleaning Up The Environment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070614155347.htm
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "Microbes At Work Cleaning Up The Environment." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070614155347.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Once upon a time, farming was a blissfully low-tech business on Colombia's northern plains. Duration: 02:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins