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Type: Journal article
Title: Progressive biogeochemical transformation of placer gold particles drives compositional changes in associated biofilm communities
Author: Rea, M.
Standish, C.
Shuster, J.
Bissett, A.
Reith, F.
Citation: FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 2018; 94(6):fiy080-1-fiy080-15
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Issue Date: 2018
ISSN: 0168-6496
Statement of
Maria Angelica Rea, Christopher D. Standish, Jeremiah Shuster, Andrew Bissett and Frank Reith
Abstract: Biofilms on placer gold (Au)-particle surfaces drive Au solubilization and re-concentration thereby progressively transforming the particles. Gold solubilization induces Au-toxicity; however, Au-detoxifying community members ameliorates Au-toxicity by precipitating soluble Au to metallic Au. We hypothesize that Au-dissolution and re-concentration (precipitation) places selective pressures on associated microbial communities, leading to compositional changes and subsequent Au-particle transformation. We analyzed Au-particles from eight United Kingdom sites using next generation sequencing, electron microscopy and micro-analyses. Gold particles contained biofilms composed of prokaryotic cells and extracellular polymeric substances intermixed with (bio)minerals. Across all sites communities were dominated by Proteobacteria (689, 97% Operational Taxonomic Units, 59.3% of total reads), with β-Proteobacteria being the most abundant. A wide range of Au-morphotypes including nanoparticles, micro-crystals, sheet-like Au and secondary rims, indicated that dissolution and re-precipitation occurred, and from this transformation indices were calculated. Multivariate statistical analyses showed a significant relationship between the extent of Au-particle transformation and biofilm community composition, with putative metal-resistant Au-cycling taxa linked to progressive Au transformation. These included the genera Pseudomonas, Leptothrix and Acinetobacter. Additionally, putative exoelectrogenic genera Rhodoferax and Geobacter were highly abundant. In conclusion, biogeochemical Au-cycling and Au-particle transformation occurred at all sites and exerted a strong influence on biofilm community composition.
Keywords: Gold; bacteria; biofilms; biogeochemistry; diversity; adaptation; NGS
Rights: © FEMS 2018. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:
RMID: 0030086631
DOI: 10.1093/femsec/fiy080
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Appears in Collections:Molecular and Biomedical Science publications

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