Department of Energy-funded researchers have decoded and analyzed the genome of a bacterium with the potential to bioremediate radioactive metals and generate electricity. In an article published in the December 12th issue of Science, researchers at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, report that Geobacter sulfurreducens possesses extraordinary capabilities to transport electrons and "reduce" metal ions as part of its energy-generating metabolism.
"The genome of this tiny microorganism may help us to address some of our most difficult cleanup problems and to generate power through biologically-based energy sources," Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said. "Geobacter is an important part of Natures toolbox for meeting environmental and energy challenges. This genome sequence and the additional research that it makes possible may lead to new strategies and biotechnologies for cleaning up groundwater at DOE and at industry sites."
The contamination of groundwater with radionuclides and metals is one of the most challenging environmental problems at Department of Energy former nuclear weapons production sites. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts have previously found that Geobacter species can precipitate a wide range of radionuclides and metals (including uranium, technetium and chromium) from groundwater, preventing them from migrating to wells or rivers where they may pose a risk to humans and the environment.
Jeff Sherwood | EurekAlert!
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