Biosorption of metal and salt tolerant microbial isolates from a former uranium mining area. Their impact on changes in rare earth element patterns in acid mine drainage



The concentration of metals in microbial habitats influenced by mining operations can reach enormous values. Worldwide, much emphasis is placed on the research of resistance and biosorptive capacities of microorganisms suitable for bioremediation purposes. Using a collection of isolates from a former uranium mining area in Eastern Thuringia, Germany, this study presents three Gram-positive bacterial strains with distinct metal tolerances. These strains were identified as members of the genera Bacillus, Micrococcus and Streptomyces. Acid mine drainage (AMD) originating from the same mining area is characterized by high metal concentrations of a broad range of elements and a very low pH. AMD was analyzed and used as incubation solution. The sorption of rare earth elements (REE), aluminum, cobalt, copper, manganese, nickel, strontium, and uranium through selected strains was studied during a time course of four weeks. Biosorption was investigated after one hour, one week and four weeks by analyzing the concentrations of metals in supernatant and biomass. Additionally, dead biomass was investigated after four weeks of incubation. The maximum of metal removal was reached after one week. Up to 80% of both Al and Cu, and more than 60% of U was shown to be removed from the solution. High concentrations of metals could be bound to the biomass, as for example 2.2 mg/g U. The strains could survive four weeks of incubation. Distinct and different patterns of rare earth elements of the inoculated and non-inoculated AMD water were observed. Changes in REE patterns hint at different binding types of heavy metals regarding incubation time and metabolic activity of the cells. (© 2008 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)