• tellurium;
  • dimethyl telluride;
  • reduction;
  • bacteria;
  • elemental;
  • toxicity;
  • bioreactor;
  • hydride generation


The purpose of this study was to determine whether a facultative anaerobe, Pseudomonas fluorescens K27, would produce dimethyl telluride when anaerobic cultures were amended with differing concentrations of sodium tellurate and/or sodium tellurite and how that volatile organotellurium production varied over time. Batch bacterial bioreactor experiments were undertaken in order to observe the changes in the headspace of a growth medium solution inoculated with P. fluorescens and amended with tellurium salts. Gas samples were taken from the bioreactor every hour and were analyzed by capillary gas chromatography using fluorine-induced chemiluminescence detection to determine compounds in the headspace. Liquid samples were analyzed by spectrophotometer to determine optical densities, which were used as an indicator of cell growth. Verification of the identity of the dimethyl telluride produced in the bacterial headspace above a tellurate-amended culture was achieved by comparison with the chromatographic retention time of an authentic (CH3)2Te standard and by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The time course production of dimethyl telluride varied with amendment salts' tellurium oxidation states and concentrations. Increasing tellurate concentrations caused slower bacterial growth, but those cultures reached the stationary phase sooner than cultures amended with tellurite concentrations 10 or 100 times less. Black elemental tellurium (Te0) was produced by live cultures amended with tellurium salts but not by sterile controls. The amount of tellurium in the solid phase (as Te0 and in/or on cells) harvested from replicate, anaerobic cultures of P. fluorescens sampled after 92 h of incubation was approximately 34%. Mixed tellurite/tellurate amendment experiments exhibited a synergistic toxic effect and yielded less final biomass and very little dimethyl telluride production compared with cultures amended with either tellurate or tellurite alone. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.