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Uranium Bioremediation Strategy

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BER Research Advancing the Science of Bioremediation Genome-Enabled Techniques Contribute to Model Development Geobacter species can transform uranium from a soluble to an insoluble form, effectively removing it from groundwater and preventing its further mobility. Environmental Remediation Sciences Division (ERSD) investigations demonstrated that this reaction is coupled to growth, indicating that the process is part of cellular respiration. Further exploration into Geobacter’s metabolic pathways showed that uranium reduction is linked to the oxidation of organic carbon compounds such as acetate. In ERSD programs, adding acetate over a 3-month period to a site where Geobacter and uranium were present resulted in the Geobacter-mediated precipitation of uranium. After 50 days, the responsible Geobacter species became a minor component of the entire microbial community, demonstrating a need to better optimize strategies for long-term bioremediation by these microbes. The ultimate goal is for GTL environmental-remediation research to develop in silico models that can be used before initiating bioremediation to accurately predict the metabolic behavior of microorganisms involved. Such models will enable evaluation of multiple potential bioremediation strategies before resources and time are committed to field work. GTL and ERSD researchers have made substantial progress toward this goal. An in silico model of G.sulfurreducens developed from its genome sequence has accurately predicted its metabolic response to a variety of environmental conditions. With further development, a more generalized in silico model of the Geobacter species that predominate during in situ uranium bioremediation will be able to guide optimization of uranium cleanup at a wide range of DOE sites. Reference R.T. Anderson et al., “Stimulating the In Situ Activity of Geobacter Species to Remove Uranium from the Groundwater of a Uranium-Contaminated Aquifer,” Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 69, 5584–91 (2003).]

Credit or Source: Adapted from a drawing by D. Lovley, Univ. of Massachusetts,Genome Management Information System, Oak Ridge National Laboratory


US DOE. 2005. Genomics:GTL Roadmap, DOE/SC-0090, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. (p. 219) (website)

Prepared by the Biological and Environmental Research Information System, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and