Characterization of an autotrophic bioreactor microbial consortium degrading thiocyanate

Watts, M. P., Spurr, L. P., Gan, H. M. and Moreau, J. W. (2017) Characterization of an autotrophic bioreactor microbial consortium degrading thiocyanate. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 101(14), pp. 5889-5901. (doi: 10.1007/s00253-017-8313-6) (PMID:28510801)

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Thiocyanate (SCN−) forms as a by-product of cyanidation during gold ore processing and can be degraded by a variety of microorganisms utilizing it as an energy, nitrogen, sulphur and/or carbon source. In complex consortia inhabiting bioreactor systems, a range of metabolisms are sustained by SCN− degradation; however, despite the addition or presence of labile carbon sources in most bioreactor designs to date, autotrophic bacteria have been found to dominate key metabolic functions. In this study, we cultured an autotrophic SCN−-degrading consortium directly from gold mine tailings. In a batch-mode bioreactor experiment, this consortium degraded 22 mM SCN−, accumulating ammonium (NH4 +) and sulphate (SO4 2−) as the major end products. The consortium consisted of a diverse microbial community comprised of chemolithoautotrophic members, and despite the absence of an added organic carbon substrate, a significant population of heterotrophic bacteria. The role of eukaryotes in bioreactor systems is often poorly understood; however, we found their 18S rRNA genes to be most closely related to sequences from bacterivorous Amoebozoa. Through combined chemical and phylogenetic analyses, we were able to infer roles for key microbial consortium members during SCN− biodegradation. This study provides a basis for understanding the behaviour of a SCN− degrading bioreactor under autotrophic conditions, an anticipated approach to remediating SCN− at contemporary gold mines.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Moreau, Dr John
Authors: Watts, M. P., Spurr, L. P., Gan, H. M., and Moreau, J. W.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
ISSN (Online):1432-0614
Published Online:16 May 2017

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