Chapter 21 : Acidophiles: Mechanisms To Tolerate Metal and Acid Toxicity

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Acidophiles are microorganisms belonging to eubacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes that need to grow in environments of low pH (<3). Other microorganisms are highly tolerant to extremely acidic conditions but can also grow at neutral pH. Ecological success in any given environment is termed fitness, a measure of the ability of one genotype to reproduce in comparison with another. Hot, acidic, and metal-rich environments are often dominated by archaeal members of the family. Volcanic activities contributed to a constant supply of arsenic that was mainly in the form of arsenite under the prevailing reducing conditions. Acidophiles are not intrinsically arsenic or metal resistant but often achieve high levels of resistance through plasmids and/or transposons. Mercury resistance in acidophiles has been studied extensively in . In various strains of , an additional mercury volatilization system that is dependent on iron oxidation can be found. The mechanisms characterized to date are very similar to those found in organisms that grow at neutral pH, and their genes are often found to be located on either plasmids or transposons that would facilitate their spread by interspecies gene transfer.

Citation: Franke S, Rensing C. 2007. Acidophiles: Mechanisms To Tolerate Metal and Acid Toxicity, p 271-278. In Gerday C, Glansdorff N (ed), Physiology and Biochemistry of Extremophiles. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815813.ch21
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Image of Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Arsenic resistance mechanisms in acidophiles. only contains encoding an As(III)-responsive repressor ArsR and , encoding the putative As(III) efflux pump ArsB. The operon of contains two additional genes, and , encoding the arsenate reductase and possibly an arsenite oxidase, respectively. The operon from also encodes the ArsA, As(III)-, and Sb(III)-ATPase and the putative As(III)- and Sb(III)-chaperone ArsD.

Citation: Franke S, Rensing C. 2007. Acidophiles: Mechanisms To Tolerate Metal and Acid Toxicity, p 271-278. In Gerday C, Glansdorff N (ed), Physiology and Biochemistry of Extremophiles. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815813.ch21
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Image of Figure 2.
Figure 2.

Mercury resistance mechanisms in acidophiles. Mercury resistance in acidophiles was first reported in containing . MerR is a mercury-dependent activator, MerC a transporter involved in Hg(II) uptake, and MerA the mercuric reductase. MerE could be an alternative Hg(II) uptake system. Other strains contain determinants with encoding a putative Hg(II) uptake system. MerP is a periplasmic Hg(II)-binding protein, and MerT is thought to accept Hg(II) from MerP and deliver it to MerA. In some strains, iron-dependent reduction of mercury was shown to be dependent on mercury-resistant cytochrome oxidase.

Citation: Franke S, Rensing C. 2007. Acidophiles: Mechanisms To Tolerate Metal and Acid Toxicity, p 271-278. In Gerday C, Glansdorff N (ed), Physiology and Biochemistry of Extremophiles. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815813.ch21
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Generic image for table
Table 1.

Upper-level concentrations of some metals in a variety of acidophiles where metabolic activity has been recorded (from )

Citation: Franke S, Rensing C. 2007. Acidophiles: Mechanisms To Tolerate Metal and Acid Toxicity, p 271-278. In Gerday C, Glansdorff N (ed), Physiology and Biochemistry of Extremophiles. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815813.ch21

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