The importance of the bacterial cell wall in uranium(vi) biosorption†
The bacterial cell envelope, in particular the cell wall, is considered the main controlling factor in the biosorption of aqueous uranium(VI) by microorganisms. However, the specific roles of the cell wall, associated biomolecules, and other components of the cell envelope are not well defined. Here we report findings on the biosorption of uranium by isolated cell envelope components and associated biomolecules, with P. putida 33015 and B. subtilis 168 investigated as representative strains for the differences in Gram-negative and Gram-positive cell envelope architecture, respectively. The cell wall and cell surface membrane were isolated from intact cells and characterised by X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) and Attenuated Total Reflectance-Fourier Transform Infrared (ATR-FT-IR) spectroscopy; revealing variations in the abundance of functional moieties and biomolecules associated with components of the cell envelope. Uranium biosorption was investigated as a function of cell envelope component and pH, comparing with intact cells. The isolated cell wall from both strains exhibited the greatest uranium biosorption capacity. Deprotonation of favourable functional groups on the biomass as the pH increased from 3 to 5.5 increased their uranium biosorption capacity by approximately 3 fold. The results from ATR-FT-IR indicated that uranium(VI) biosorption was mediated by phosphate and carboxyl groups associated with proteins and phosphorylated biopolymers of the cell envelope. This includes outer membrane phospholipids and LPS of Gram-negative bacteria and teichoic acids, surface proteins and peptidoglycan from Gram-positive bacteria. As a result, the biosorption process of uranium(VI) to microorganisms is controlled by surface interactions, resulting in higher accumulation of uranium in the cell envelope. This demonstrates the importance of bacterial cell wall as the key mediator of uranium biosorption with microorganisms.