New Genome-Based Tools Improve Description of Uranium Bioreduction in the Environment


Environmental microbes play an important role in the remediation of contaminants such as uranium by converting them from mobile to immobile forms. However, we do not have accurate or reliable tools to predict the role that microbes will play in remediation of contaminants at a site. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts have developed a genome-enabled approach for assessing the metal-reducing activity of members of the Geobacter family involved in acetate stimulated uranium reduction in the environment. This new approach couples laboratory studies with in silico modeling of microbial metabolism and gene expression (mRNA) analyses from the dominant Geobacter species at a site to explain how the microbes respond to acetate injected into the subsurface to stimulate uranium reduction. The new tools can, for example, provide crucial data on rates of acetate uptake useful in mechanistic, in silico, models of microbial growth and activity. The current study is an example of how genome-enabled studies of environmentally-relevant microbes can lead to more mechanistic descriptions of microbial metabolism in the environment.


Microbiology, 2008, vol 154:2589-2599.