Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fungi Have A Hand In Depleted Uranium's Environmental Fate

Date:
May 6, 2008
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Fungi may have an important role to play in the fate of potentially dangerous depleted uranium left in the environment after recent war campaigns, according to a new report in Current Biology. Fungi can "lock" depleted uranium into a mineral form that may be less likely to find its way into plants, animals, or the water supply.

Fungi may have an important role to play in the fate of potentially dangerous depleted uranium left in the environment after recent war campaigns, according to a new report in the May 6th issue of Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press.

Related Articles


The researchers found evidence that fungi can "lock" depleted uranium into a mineral form that may be less likely to find its way into plants, animals, or the water supply.

"This work provides yet another example of the incredible properties of microorganisms in effecting transformations of metals and minerals in the natural environment," said Geoffrey Gadd of the University of Dundee in Scotland. "Because fungi are perfectly suited as biogeochemical agents, often dominate the biota in polluted soils, and play a major role in the establishment and survival of plants through their association with roots, fungal-based approaches should not be neglected in remediation attempts for metal-polluted soils."

The testing of depleted-uranium ammunition and its recent use in Iraq and the Balkans has led to contamination of the environment with the unstable metal, Gadd explained. Depleted uranium differs from natural uranium in the balance of isotopes it contains. It is the byproduct of uranium enrichment for use in nuclear reactors or nuclear weapons and is valued for its very high density. Although less radioactive than natural uranium, depleted uranium is just as toxic and poses a threat to people.

In the new study, the researchers found that free-living and plant symbiotic (mycorrhizal) fungi can colonize depleted-uranium surfaces and transform the metal into uranyl phosphate minerals.

While they probably still pose some threat, he said, "The fungal-produced minerals are capable of long-term uranium retention, so this may help prevent uptake of uranium by plants, animals, and microbes. It might also prevent the spent uranium from leaching out from the soil."

Gadd said that a combination of environmental and biological factors is involved in the process. First, the unstable uranium metal gets coated with a layer of oxides. Moisture in the environment also "corrodes" the depleted uranium, encouraging fungal colonization and growth. While the fungi grow, they produce acidic substances, which corrode the depleted uranium even further. Some of the substances produced include organic acids that convert the uranium into a form that the fungi can take up or that can interact with other compounds. Ultimately, he said, the interaction of soluble forms of uranium with phosphate leads to the formation of the new uranium minerals that get deposited around the fungal biomass.

"We have shown for the first time that fungi can transform metallic uranium into minerals, which are capable of long-term uranium retention," the researchers concluded. "This phenomenon could be relevant to the future development of various remediation and revegetation techniques for uranium-polluted soils."

The researchers include Marina Fomina of University of Dundee in Dundee, Scotland; John M. Charnock of Synchrotron Radiation Source (SRS) Daresbury Laboratory in Daresbury, Warrington, Cheshire; Stephen Hillier of Macaulay Institute in Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, Scotland; Rebeca Alvarez and Francis Livens of University of Manchester in Manchester, UK; and Geoffrey M. Gadd of University of Dundee in Dundee, Scotland.

This work was financially supported by the MOD/NERC DU Programme (Grant NE/C506799/1), CCLRC Daresbury SRS (SRS beamtime allocation 45100), and the Scottish Executive Environmental and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD).

Journal reference: Fomina et al.: "Role of fungi in the biogeochemical fate of depleted uranium." Publishing in Current Biology 18, R375 --R377, May 6, 2008.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Fungi Have A Hand In Depleted Uranium's Environmental Fate." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 May 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080505072838.htm>.
Cell Press. (2008, May 6). Fungi Have A Hand In Depleted Uranium's Environmental Fate. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 4, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080505072838.htm
Cell Press. "Fungi Have A Hand In Depleted Uranium's Environmental Fate." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080505072838.htm (accessed March 4, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Rare Goblin Shark Found in Australia

Rare Goblin Shark Found in Australia

AFP (Mar. 3, 2015) A goblin shark, a rare sea creature described as an &apos;alien of the deep&apos; is found off Australia and delivered to the Australian Museum in Sydney. Duration: 01:25 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
500 Snakes Surprise Construction Workers In Canada

500 Snakes Surprise Construction Workers In Canada

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) Hundreds of snakes, disturbed by a construction project, were relocated to a wildlife rescue association in Canada. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Going Gluten-Free Could Get You A Tax Break

Going Gluten-Free Could Get You A Tax Break

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) If a doctor advises you to remove gluten from your diet, you could get a tax deduction on the amount you spend on gluten-free foods. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Zookeepers Copy Animal Poses In Hilarious Viral Photos

Zookeepers Copy Animal Poses In Hilarious Viral Photos

Buzz60 (Mar. 2, 2015) Zookeepers at the Symbio Wildlife Park in Helensburgh, Australia decided to take some of their favorite animal photos and recreate them by posing just like the animals. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
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