U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

NABIR Researchers Report Uptake of Plutonium by Common Soil Microorganisms
Published: August 01, 2001
Posted: August 13, 2001

Researchers in BER's Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) Program reported in the June 8 edition of the journal Environmental Science & Technology that commonly occurring microorganisms can take up the radionuclide plutonium (Pu). Dr. Mary Neu and her co-workers at LANL studied Microbacterium flavescens, a relatively common soil microbe that takes up iron as a nutrient by producing siderophores. Siderophores are agents that bind and transport iron into the cell. The researchers found that the microbe can use the same type of siderophores that transport iron as a mechanism to take up and accumulate Pu. While other researchers have previously reported sorption of some forms of Pu to the surfaces of cells, Neu's work is the first to show unequivocal transport into the cell and to elucidate the mechanism for that transport. Because iron is an essential nutrient for life, iron siderophores are common in bacteria, fungi and even plants, suggesting a major pathway for removal of plutonium from the aqueous phase. The effects of microbes and microbially produced siderophores on plutonium are significant not only for the prediction of the long term fate of such toxics in the environment, but also for the development of novel technologies for bioremediation of plutonium and other actinide elements through removal from the aqueous phase and immobilization in microbial biomass.

Contact: Anna Palmisano, SC-74, 3-9963
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Subsurface Biogeochemical Research
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-74 Environmental Sciences Division, OBER)


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)