Summary: A heavy-metal-accumulating sp. has been used for the treatment of metal-laden industrial wastes. Metal uptake is mediated via a cell-bound phosphatase that liberates inorganic phosphate which precipitates with heavy metals as cell-bound metal phosphate. A phosphatase-deficient mutant accumulated little UO , while a phosphatase-overproducing mutant accumulated correspondingly more metal, with a uranium loading equivalent to the bacterial dry weight achieved after 6 h exposure of resting cells to uranyl ion in the presence of phosphatase substrate (glycerol 2-phosphate). The phosphatase, visualized by immunogold labelling in the parent and overproducing strains, but not seen in the deficient mutant, was held within the periplasmic space with, in some cells, a higher concentration at the polar regions. Enzyme was also associated with the outer membrane and found extracellularly. Accumulated uranyl phosphate was visible as cell-surface- and polar-localized deposits, identified by energy-dispersive X-ray analysis (EDAX), proton-induced X-ray emission analysis (PIXE) and X-ray diffraction analysis (XRD) as polycrystalline HUOPO.4HO. Nuclaation sites for initiation of biocrystallization were identified at the cytoplasmic and outer membranes, prompting consideration of an biocatalytic system for metal waste remediation. Phosphatidylcholine-based liposomes with entrapped phosphatase released phosphate comparably to whole cells, as shown by 31P NMR spectroscopy in the presence of ‘IMMR-silent’ Cd. Application of liposome-immobilized enzyme to the decontamination of uranyl solutions was, however, limited by rapid fouling of the biocatalyst by deposited uranyl phosphate. It is suggested that the architecture of the bacterial cell surface provides a means of access of uranyl ion to the inner and outer membranes and enzymically liberated phosphate in a way that minimizes fouling in whole cells.


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