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Title: Unexpected effects of gene deletion on mercury interactions with the methylation-deficient mutant hgcAB

The hgcA and hgcB gene pair is essential for mercury (Hg) methylation by certain anaerobic bacteria,1 but little is known about how deletion of hgcAB affects cell surface interactions and intracellular uptake of Hg. Here, we compare hgcAB mutants with the wild-type (WT) strains of both Geobacter sulfurreducens PCA and Desulfovibrio desulfuricans ND132 and observe differences in Hg redox transformations, adsorption, and uptake in laboratory incubation studies. In both strains, deletion of hgcAB increased the reduction of Hg(II) but decreased the oxidation of Hg(0) under anaerobic conditions. The measured cellular thiol content in hgcAB mutants was lower than the WT, accounting for decreased adsorption and uptake of Hg. Despite the lack of methylation activity, Hg uptake by the hgcAB continued, albeit at a slower rate than the WT. These findings demonstrate that deletion of the hgcAB gene not only eliminates Hg methylation but also alters cell physiology, resulting in changes to Hg redox reactions, sorption, and uptake by cells.
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  1. ORNL
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Environmental Science & Technology; Journal Volume: 1; Journal Issue: 1
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
Country of Publication:
United States
mercury; methylation; Geobacter; mutant