Fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy as tools for monitoring redox transformations of uranium in biological systems†
We report a study of redox reactions of uranium in model conditions using luminescence spectroscopy, which with its ease and wide availability has the potential to offer new insights into a bioremediation strategy of particular interest – the enzymatic reduction of UVIO22+ by bacteria such as Geobacter sulfurreducens. The inherent luminescent properties of UVIO22+ have been combined with confocal fluorescence microscopy techniques and lifetime image mapping to report directly on uranium concentration, localisation and oxidation state in cellular systems during uranium bioreduction, suggesting that localisation of uranyl species on the cell membrane surface plays an important role and that extracellular biogenic features form alongside uranyl sorbed cellular species during early stages of the bioreduction. The use of confocal microscopy in tandem with lifetime image mapping offers both improved temporal and spatial resolution (nanoseconds to microseconds and sub-micron respectively) than more conventional X-ray based techniques and offers the potential to image redox reactions occurring in situ. Together, these techniques provide an excellent and sensitive probe to assess the coordination environment of uranium during bioreduction processes that are currently being considered for remediation strategies of redox active radionuclides present in contaminated land.