BER Research Highlights

Search Date: October 17, 2017

11 Records match the search term(s):


October 30, 2002

Bioremediation Field Experiment Successfully Removes Uranium from Contaminated Ground Water

Researchers in the Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) program have demonstrated that a novel bioremediation strategy precipitates uranium from ground water at a Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) site in Rifle, Colorado. Until now, there have been no cost-effective mechanisms for preventing uranium contamination from migrating with ground water and threatening important water resources. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts discovered that microorganisms from the genus Geobacter effectively strip uranium from contaminated ground water by transferring electrons onto uranium. This electron transfer process converts soluble uranium to an insoluble form that precipitates from the ground water. To stimulate the activity of Geobacter at the Old Rifle site, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Massachusetts, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the UMTRA program added a dilute solution of acetate (i.e. vinegar) to the ground water. From mid-June through mid-August, more than 70% of the uranium was precipitated from the ground water within the treatment zone. In some areas, uranium concentrations were below UMTRAs maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 0.044mg/L. The Geobacter species responsible for uranium removal at the Old Rifle site is also being investigated in the Genomes to Life Program to better understand the mechanisms by which Geobacter transforms radionuclides such as uranium.

Contact: Paul Bayer, SC-75, (301) 903-5324 and Anna Palmisano, SC-75, (301) 903-9963
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-75 Environmental Remediation Sciences Division, OBER)


October 09, 2002

Researcher Honored for Work in Biological Chemistry

Yi Lu, associate professor of chemistry, biochemistry, and biophysics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has been recognized twice recently for his pioneering work related to the development of DNA-based sensors for metal or radionuclide contaminants. His scientific efforts, supported in part by BER's Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research Program (NABIR), earned him a first-runner-up certificate in the Elsevier Bioelectronics and Biosensors competition at the World Congress on Biosensors in Kyoto, Japan, in May 2002. His prize-winning work will be described in a special issue of the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics sometime in 2003. More recently, the philanthropic Howard Hughes Medical Institute awarded Dr. Lu a prestigious and sizeable grant in support of his science education efforts, designating him one of its first group of HHMI Professors. The full story of the HHMI award appeared in the 30 September 2002 issue of Chemical and Engineering News (pp. 32-33). Dr. Lu's NABIR project focuses on the use of combinatorial chemistry in the development of DNA biosensors for simultaneous detection and quantification of bioavailable radionuclides. He has identified several catalytic DNAs for use within small, field-portable sensors for various toxic heavy metals. These DNA biosensors are highly sensitive, selective, shelf-stable, and cost-effective; and have been demonstrated useful in both fluorometric and colorimetric analysis of natural and municipal waters. Further work will enable their use as on-site or remote analytical tools, to obtain quantitative measurements of contamination, in real time. This research is applicable both to DOE's current bioremediation efforts and subsequent long-term stewardship.

Contact: Brendlyn Faison, SC-75, 3-0042
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-75 Environmental Remediation Sciences Division, OBER)


September 18, 2002

Enzyme Activity Boosted by Entrapping in a Nanoporous Support

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) researchers have discovered that modifying the surfaces of the pores of the silica particles with carboxylate groups enhanced the activity of the enzyme organophosphorus hydrolase (OPH), which is widely used for treating poisonous agents. The researchers have demonstrated that immobilizing an enzyme in a functionalized nanoporous silica support increases the activity of the enzyme by a factor of four over the enzyme in an unfunctionalized support. Immobilization of enzymes enables their use in applications ranging from continuous treatment of environmental contaminants to use in biosensors. The activity of an immobilized enzyme generally is lower than that of the enzyme in solution. The carboxylate groups attract the OPH and hold it within the pores of the silica without affecting the activity of the enzyme solving this problem. The PNNL group is led by Eric J. Ackerman and Jun Liu. The research has just been published on line in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and was selected to be highlighted in the Science & Technology section of the September 9, 2002, issue of Chemical & Engineering News.

Contact: Marvin Frazier, SC-72, 3-5468
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER
      (formerly SC-72 Life Sciences Division, OBER)


September 18, 2002

NABIR Research Published in Nature Shows Bacterial Transformation of Uranium Results in Nanometer Size Particles

This finding has important implications for uraninite reactivity and fate because these tiny particles may be transported in an aqueous environment, rather than immobilized, as previously assumed. Dr. Ken Kemner, a Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research Program investigator at ANL, is a senior author on a brief communication in the September 12, 2002 issue of the premier scientific journal Nature: "Radionuclide contamination: Nanometre-size products of uranium bioreduction," (Y. Suzuki et al., Nature 419:134, 2002). The research showed that uraninite (UO2) particles formed from uranium in sediments by bacterial reduction are typically less than 2 nanometers in size. This pioneering work lies at the interface between geology and biology. These results will help to fine-tune the control of microbial processes designed to remediate DOE's contaminated sites, and will contribute to basic understanding of the uranium biogeochemistry in nature worldwide. Kemner is a recipient of both the Presidential Early Career and the DOE Early Career Scientist Awards.

Contact: Brendlyn Faison, SC-75, 3-0042
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-75 Environmental Remediation Sciences Division, OBER)


May 29, 2002

NABIR-Sponsored Bioremediation Research Featured at Microbiology Meeting

Research supported by the Office of Science NABIR (Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research) program dominated environmental microbiology poster sessions at the 2002 annual Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, May 19-23, in Salt Lake City. Two full poster sessions were devoted to microbial treatment of soils contaminated with metals and/or radionuclides; another, more general session concentrated on microbial activity in the subsurface. Projects funded through NABIR's Biotransformation and Biogeochemical Dynamics elements comprised half of the work presented (25 of 51 metal bioremediation posters, and 6 of 12 biogeochemistry posters). These NABIR investigators' additional work was included in general sessions on soil or subsurface microbiology. The strong presence of NABIR-funded work at this premier microbiology meeting (organized by the largest life-science society in the US) contributes to DOE's position as a leader in basic microbiological and environmental research.

Contact: Brendlyn Faison, SC-74, 3-0042
Topic Areas:

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


May 08, 2002

NABIR Supported Research on Metal-Oxide Sensing Microorganism Yields Surprise Finding

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

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


March 27, 2002

Fifth Annual DOE Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) Program Grantee/Contractor Meeting

The fifth annual NABIR grantee/contractor meeting was held in Warrenton, Virginia, on March 17-20, 2002. Over 150 attendees participated including bioremediation researchers, Office of Science (SC) and Office of Environmental Management (EM) program managers, and other agency representatives. A highlight of the meeting was a roundtable organized by Caroline Purdy (EM-54) on connecting NABIR science to EM customer needs. Representatives from sites at Fernald, Oak Ridge, Savannah River, Los Alamos, and Idaho discussed metal and radionuclide contamination in the subsurface at their sites. The NABIR program supports research on biotechnology to immobilize radionuclides and metals in subsurface environments to reduce risk to humans and the environment. Extraordinary progress has been made in understanding the complex subsurface environment at the NABIR Field Research Center on the Oak Ridge Reservation.

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

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


March 13, 2002

Minority Researcher, Trained With NABIR Support, Publishes in Key Scientific Journals

One of the Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) Program's most visible success stories is Dr. James Scott. Scott, an African-American microbiologist, originally worked as an undergraduate technician on a NABIR-funded project with Dr. Kenneth Nealson, then at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Nealson encouraged Scott to continue the project for his PhD thesis. His thesis research, published in the Journal of Bacteriology and the journal Applied Environmental Microbiology, was on the metabolism of a one-carbon compound (formate) by the soil bacterium Shewanella, which displays differing activities in the presence and absence of oxygen (as in subsurface environments). In the absence of oxygen, Shewanella metabolizes, and precipitates uranium or other metals. The organism is now studied by several NABIR researchers and could serve as a basis for bioremediation of soils and sediments at DOE sites contaminated with these materials. Scott's latest publication, describing formate metabolism and survival by Shewanella at very high pressure or within ice, recently appeared in the highly respected journal Science. The results, widely reported on national news, suggest that Shewanella may play a quantitatively important role in precipitating uranium and other metals in deep soils, sediments, and other geological formations. Dr. Scott is a highly visible example of DOE's efforts to expand and diversify the U.S. scientific workforce. BER's support has been integral to his professional success, and has contributed to NABIR's success by describing the physiology of an organism that may be critical to the development of bioremediation strategies to immobilize metal and radionuclide contaminants in subsurface environments at DOE sites.

Contact: Brendlyn Faison, SC-74, 3-0042
Topic Areas:

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


January 30, 2002

The World and I Highlights BER Microbial Genome Program

The January 2002 issue of The World and I prominently features results from the DOE Biological and Environmental Research (BER) Microbial Genome Program in a major article titled "Great Expectations of Small Genomes" by staff writer Dinshaw Dadachanji, and boldly notes that "Ongoing efforts to sequence the DNA of various microorganisms are fueled by the promise that the information gained will boost advances in such areas as medicine, energy production, environmental cleanup, and industrial processes." The focus of BER's Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) program includes microbial bioremediation as a particular emphasis and the majority of the microbes sequenced under the sponsorship of the Microbial Genome program have demonstrated relevance to bioremediation, energy production, and global climate processes. The article further notes that "Shewanella oneidensis, a bacterium that can grow in water and soil, can consume toxic organic wastes and precipitate certain heavy metals--including radioactive uranium--from solution. This ability could be used to trap and remove uranium from a contaminated stream." BER-supported researchers at the DOE Oak Ridge National Laboratory are now placing hundreds of its DNA segments on microarrays to find genes that might be useful for environmental remediation.

Contact: Dan Drell, SC-72, 3-4742
Topic Areas:

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER
      (formerly SC-72 Life Sciences Division, OBER)


January 23, 2002

NABIR Researcher Publishes Biogeochemistry Finding in Science

Terry Beveridge (Department of Microbiology, University of Guelph; Ontario, Canada) and coworkers have published a paper in the January 4, 2002, issue of Science (295:117-119) on "intracellular iron minerals in a dissimilatory iron-reducing bacterium [DIRB]." The paper describes the controlled formation of minerals--by naturally occurring, indigenous bacteria--in subsurface soils and sediments. Beveridge, et al., study bacteria that have been strongly implicated in the immobilization of contaminating metals and radionuclides in soil environments. Contaminants precipitated by these organisms include but are not limited to uranium, technetium, and chromium. Immobilization of such contaminants via precipitation in soils reduces their concentration in groundwater and transport into surface waters. These latter contaminants are widespread throughout the DOE complex and are the target of the Biological and Environmental Research's (BER) Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) program. NABIR supports several projects that examine the fundamental biology and geochemistry associated with the activity of DIRB's at DOE sites. The published work contributes to the development of new strategies for the cleanup of hazardous and/or radioactive waste deposited in soils as a legacy of nuclear weapons production activities.

Contact: Brendlyn Faison, SC-74, 3-0042
Topic Areas:

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


January 02, 2002

NABIR Researcher Featured on Environmental News Network Website

Dr. Judy Wall, a researcher in the Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) Program, was featured on the Environmental News Network (ENN) website on November 26, 2001. ENN is one of the most popular websites on environmental sciencesfor the general public. Dr. Wall is a professor of biochemistry at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The article described her research on the bacterium Desulfovibrio desulfuricans to determine its potential for bioremediation of sites contaminated by uranium. This particular bacterium is widely distributed in soils and sediments, and it obtains its energy by adding electrons onto other compounds. By adding electrons onto U(VI), a soluble and toxic form of uranium, D. desulfuricans can chemically reduce uranium to U(IV), a less soluble and less toxic form. Dr. Wall is examining the bacterial genes that are responsible for controlling the flow of electrons to U(VI). By determining the genetic pathways, she can begin to examine regulatory and environmental factors that might enhance its use in bioremediation. Dr. Wall is also collaborating with researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to identify and characterize the bacterial proteins that are involved in providing electrons to U(VI). The researchers hope to increase the bacterium's affinity for uranium and thus its efficiency in bioremediation.

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

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