Department of Environmental Sciences
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Seminar Abstracts
Environmental Sciences Seminar Abstract            

  Microbe-Metal Interactions: Metabolism and Strategies of Resistance
Elisabetta Bini
Rutgers University
Dept. of Biochemistry and Microbiology

Microorganisms are an essential component of all ecosystems and represent a substantial fraction of the planet's biomass. They are the base of food webs and have an important impact on the cycling of metallic elements and the degradation of chemical compounds. In fact, prokaryotes can change the oxidation state of metals, resulting in their solubilization or biomineralization. These phenomena are known to occur in the environment and have been studied in cultures, yet there is still much to be learned about the genetic determinants of metal transformations. This talk will review the work conducted in my laboratory, which is part of a broader program of research on cell response to metals, and includes the molecular characterization of metal responsive genes of microbial species isolated from different environments. Genomic and molecular tools were used to investigate the mechanisms of arsenic detoxification in Geobacillus, the utilization of metal compounds as terminal electron acceptors in Desulfurospirillum indicum for energy production, and to derive a model for copper homeostasis in the hyperthermophile Sulfolobus solfataricus, which relies on copper efflux and sequestration. Knowledge of the molecular mechanisms behind the interactions of microorganisms with metals will lead to a more in-depth understanding of metal transformations in the environment, and is relevant to the development of strategies for the bioremediation of metal-polluted sites.

Last updated: 05/07/2010