, Volume 97, Issue 13, pp 6065-6075

Changes in biofilm structure during the colonization of chalcopyrite by Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans

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Abstract

Biofilms of Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans were grown on the surface of massive chalcopyrite electrodes (MCE) where different secondary sulfur phases were previously formed by potentiostatic oxidation of MCE at 0.780 ≤ E an ≤ 0.965 V (electrooxidized MCE, eMCE). The formation of mainly S0 and minor amounts of CuS and S n 2− were detected on eMCEs. The eMCEs were incubated with A. thiooxidans cells for 1, 12, 24, 48, and 120 h in order to temporally monitor changes in eMCE's secondary phases, biofilm structure, and extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) composition (lipids, proteins, and polysaccharides) using microscopic, spectroscopic, electrochemical, and biochemical techniques. The results show significant cell attachments with stratified biofilm structure since the first hour of incubation and EPS composition changes, the most important being production after 48–120 h when the highest amount of lipids and proteins were registered. During 120 h, periodic oxidation/formation of S0/S n 2− was recorded on biooxidized eMCEs, until a stable CuS composition was formed. In contrast, no evidence of CuS formation was observed on the eMCEs of the abiotic control, confirming that CuS formation results from microbial activity. The surface transformation of eMCE induces a structural transformation of the biofilm, evolving directly to a multilayered biofilm with more hydrophobic EPS and proteins after 120 h. Our results suggest that A. thiooxidans responded to the spatial and temporal distribution and chemical reactivity of the S n 2−/S0/CuS phases throughout 120 h. These results suggested a strong correlation between surface speciation, hydrophobic domains in EPS, and biofilm organization during chalcopyrite biooxidation by A. thiooxidans.