Chapter 12 : Bacterial Surface-Mediated Mineral Formation

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This chapter focuses on the role of bacterial cell surfaces in catalyzing biomineralization processes and in promoting microfossil formation. Ultrathin sections were prepared by conventional embedding without the addition of osmium tetroxide or uranyl acetate as heavy-metal fixatives and contrasting agents. The electron density in these ultrathin sectioned samples as well as in the whole mounts presented in this chapter was provided by the naturally immobilized metals. The domains and the represent the two major bacterial groups that have been identified based on 16S rRNA phylogenetic studies. The domain is divided into the gram-positive or gram-negative groups based on cell envelope structure and chemistry (although gram-variable organisms also exist). The formation of many secondary minerals in natural as well as laboratory systems is catalyzed by microorganisms. These precipitation reactions have been divided into two general categories: passive and active mineralization. Metal precipitates on bacterial surfaces are generally hydrous, amorphous aggregates and become crystalline minerals only by lithification. However, poorly crystallized phases may also reorder and become more crystalline with time. The bacteriological processes ( and ) that have produced the geologically recognized deposits are still occurring today.

Citation: Southam G. 2000. Bacterial Surface-Mediated Mineral Formation, p 257-276. In Lovley D (ed), Environmental Microbe-Metal Interactions. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818098.ch12

Key Concept Ranking

Bacteria and Archaea
Outer Membrane Proteins
Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate
Transmission Electron Microscopy
Dissimilatory Metal Reduction
Transmission Electron Microscopy
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Figure 1

Unstained transmission electron micrograph of a water sample from the Golden Giant mine tailings pond (Hemlo gold region, Marathon, Ontario, Canada) prepared by drying an aliquot of water onto a Formvar-carbon coated 200 mesh Cu-TEM grid and examined using a Philips EM300 electron microscope (a whole mount). Not all of these bacteria have precipitated fine-grained iron-arsenic minerals on their surface. Elemental analysis was performed using a Philips EM400T electron microscope equipped with a LINK X-ray analyzer for energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (data not shown). The immobilization of metal on bacterial cell surfaces occurs at distinct nucleation sites, resulting in the development of fine-grained minerals. Bar, 1 µm.

Citation: Southam G. 2000. Bacterial Surface-Mediated Mineral Formation, p 257-276. In Lovley D (ed), Environmental Microbe-Metal Interactions. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818098.ch12
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Image of Figure 2
Figure 2

Unstained, ultrathin section transmisison electron micrograph of a mineralized biofilm from the Copper Rand mine tailings pond (Chibougamou. Quebec. Canada), revealing an unmineralized bacterium, mineralized bacteria, and inorganic particulate material that has been trapped by the biofilm. The nonmineralized cell is presumably viable, containing a hydronium “cloud” produced by its proton motive force. The proton motive force creates an acidic environment at the bacterial cell surface and prevents or limits heavy-metal binding, while the other two cells probably exhibited little or no metabolic activity at the time of sampling and are mineralized. Bar, 0.5 µm.

Citation: Southam G. 2000. Bacterial Surface-Mediated Mineral Formation, p 257-276. In Lovley D (ed), Environmental Microbe-Metal Interactions. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818098.ch12
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Figure 3

Unstained, ultrathin-section transmission electron micrograph of a mineralized biofilm from the Lemoine tailings pond (Chibougamau, Quebec, Canada), demonstrating how capsular material is capable of protecting a bacterial micro-colony from mineralization. Bar, 0.5 µm.

Citation: Southam G. 2000. Bacterial Surface-Mediated Mineral Formation, p 257-276. In Lovley D (ed), Environmental Microbe-Metal Interactions. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818098.ch12
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Image of Figure 4
Figure 4

Unstained ultrathin-section transmission electron micrograph of a sp. which has been cultured in the presence of 100 ppm of Fe, resulting in the precipitation of amorphous FeS (reference and data not shown). FeS precipitation at the cell surface is caused by the presence of HS. released as a by-product of SRB metabolism, presumably forming an HS rich microenvironment around the individual SRB. Even in active surface catalysis systems, the surface of the bacteria has an uneven distribution of minerals. Bar. 0.5 µm.

Citation: Southam G. 2000. Bacterial Surface-Mediated Mineral Formation, p 257-276. In Lovley D (ed), Environmental Microbe-Metal Interactions. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818098.ch12
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Figure 5

Unstained ultrathin-section transmission electron micrograph of an SRB culture/diagenesis system that has been incubated at 21°C for 6 months. Bacterial diagenesis promoted the nucleation of iron disulfide as a bilayer on the inner and outer surfaces of the SRB, representing the earliest and dominant stage of bacterial mineral diagenesis. Bar. 100 nm.

Citation: Southam G. 2000. Bacterial Surface-Mediated Mineral Formation, p 257-276. In Lovley D (ed), Environmental Microbe-Metal Interactions. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818098.ch12
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Generic image for table
Table 1

Secondary minerals known to form on microbial cell surfaces via passive interaction or as a consequence of microbial metabolism

Citation: Southam G. 2000. Bacterial Surface-Mediated Mineral Formation, p 257-276. In Lovley D (ed), Environmental Microbe-Metal Interactions. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818098.ch12

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