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Manganese-II oxidation and Copper-II resistance in endospore forming Firmicutes isolated from uncontaminated environmental sites

1 Laboratory of Microbiology, Institute of Biology, University of Neuchâtel, Emile-Argand 11, CH-2000 Neuchâtel, Switzerland
2 Vital-IT group, Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, CH-1000 Lausanne, Switzerland
3 Laboratorio de Complejidad Microbiana y Ecología Funcional; Departamento de Biotecnología; Facultad de Ciencias del Mar y Recursos Biológicos, Universidad de Antofagasta; CL-, 1270190, Antofagasta, Chile

Special Issues: Metal Contamination in the Environment

The accumulation of metals in natural environments is a growing concern of modern societies since they constitute persistent, non-degradable contaminants. Microorganisms are involved in redox processes and participate to the biogeochemical cycling of metals. Some endospore-forming Firmicutes (EFF) are known to oxidize and reduce specific metals and have been isolated from metal-contaminated sites. However, whether EFF isolated from uncontaminated sites have the same capabilities has not been thoroughly studied. In this study, we measured manganese oxidation and copper resistance of aerobic EFF from uncontaminated sites. For the purposes of this study we have sampled 22 natural habitats and isolated 109 EFF strains. Manganese oxidation and copper resistance were evaluated by growth tests as well as by molecular biology. Overall, manganese oxidation and tolerance to over 2 mM copper was widespread among the isolates (more than 44% of the isolates exhibited Mn (II)-oxidizing activity through visible Birnessite formation and 9.1% tolerate over 2 mM copper). The co-occurrence of these properties in the isolates was also studied. Manganese oxidation and tolerance to copper were not consistently found among phylogenetically related isolates. Additional analysis correlating the physicochemical parameters measured on the sampling sites and the metabolic capabilities of the isolates showed a positive correlation between in situ alkaline conditions and the ability of the strains to perform manganese oxidation. Likewise, a negative correlation between temperature in the habitat and copper tolerance of the strains was observed. Our results lead to the conclusion that metal tolerance is a wide spread phenomenon in unrelated aerobic EFF from natural uncontaminated environments.
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