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Copper Resistance Mechanisms Of Biomining Bacteria And Archaea Living Under Extremely High Concentrations Of Metals

A. Orell, C.A. Navarro, Carlos A. Jerez

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Extremophiles such as the acidophilic Sulfolobus metallicus (Archaea) and Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans (Bacteria) can resist Cu (CuSO4) concentrations of 200 mM and 800 mM respectively. These microorganisms are important in biomining processes to extract copper and other metals. A. ferrooxidans grown at low Cu concentrations (5 mM) expressed genes coding for ATPases most likely involved in pumping the metal from the cytoplasm to the periplasm of the bacterium. At 100 mM Cu the previous systems were repressed and there was a great induction in the expression of efflux systems known to use the proton motive force energy to export the metal outside the cell. These Cu-resistance determinants from A. ferrooxidans were found to be functional since when expressed in Escherichia coli they conferred higher Cu tolerance to it. Novel Cu-resistance determinants for A. ferrooxidans were found and characterized. S. metallicus possessed at least 2 CopM metallochaperones and 2 CopA ATPases whose expressions were induced by Cu (5 to 50 mM). Furthermore, we previously reported that both microorganisms accumulate high levels of inorganic polyphosphate (PolyP) and that intracellular Cu concentration stimulates polyP hydrolysis. The resulting Pi would then be transported out of the cell as a metal-Pi complex to detoxify the cells. In addition, our results suggest that at high Cu concentrations polyP could also provide energy for the metal efflux. All the data suggest that both biomining microorganisms use different systems to respond to Cu depending on the extracellular concentrations of the metal and suggest that the presence of different additional systems to respond to Cu may explain the extremely high metal resistance of these extremophiles.