skip to main content


Title: Thiol-facilitated cell export and desorption of methylmercury by anaerobic bacteria

Neurotoxic methylmercury (MeHg), formed by anaerobic bacteria, is shown to be rapidly excreted from the cell, but the mechanism of this process is unclear. Using both Geobacter sulfurreducens PCA and Desulfovibrio desulfuricans ND132 strains, we investigated the factors affecting export and distribution of MeHg in mercury methylation and MeHg sorption-desorption assays. Thiols, such as cysteine, were found to greatly facilitate desorption and export of MeHg, particularly by PCA cells. However, in cysteine-free assays (4 h) >90% of the synthesized MeHg was associated with PCA, among which ~73% was sorbed on the cell surface and 19% remained inside the cells. In comparison, a majority of the MeHg (70%) was exported by ND132, leaving ~20% of the MeHg sorbed on the surface and 10% inside the cells. When MeHg was added directly to the cell suspensions, ND132 adsorbed much lower MeHg but took up more MeHg inside cells than PCA did. These results demonstrate that MeHg export is bacteria strain-specific, time dependent, and is influenced by thiols, implicating important roles of ligand complexation in facilitating MeHg production and mobilization in the environment.
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [1] ;  [1]
  1. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  2. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States); Lanzhou Univ. (China)
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Published Article
Journal Name:
Environmental Science and Technology
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 2; Journal Issue: 9; Journal ID: ISSN 0013-936X
American Chemical Society (ACS)
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; methylmercury; export; desorption; Geobacter; thiols
OSTI Identifier:
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1214516