Original Paper


, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 535-546

First online:

Uranium reduction and microbial community development in response to stimulation with different electron donors

  • Melissa BarlettAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, University of MassachusettsMohawk Valley Community College, Center for Life and Health Sciences
  • , Hee Sun MoonAffiliated withDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton UniversitySchool of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Seoul National University
  • , Aaron A. PeacockAffiliated withHaley & Aldrich Inc
  • , David B. HedrickAffiliated withHaley & Aldrich Inc
  • , Kenneth H. WilliamsAffiliated withLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • , Philip E. LongAffiliated withPacific Northwest National LaboratoryEarth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • , Derek LovleyAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, University of Massachusetts
  • , Peter R. JaffeAffiliated withDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University Email author 

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Stimulating microbial reduction of soluble U(VI) to less soluble U(IV) shows promise as an in situ bioremediation strategy for uranium contaminated groundwater, but the optimal electron donors for promoting this process have yet to be identified. The purpose of this study was to better understand how the addition of various electron donors to uranium-contaminated subsurface sediments affected U(VI) reduction and the composition of the microbial community. The simple electron donors, acetate or lactate, or the more complex donors, hydrogen-release compound (HRC) or vegetable oil, were added to the sediments incubated in flow-through columns. The composition of the microbial communities was evaluated with quantitative PCR probing specific 16S rRNA genes and functional genes, phospholipid fatty acid analysis, and clone libraries. All the electron donors promoted U(VI) removal, even though the composition of the microbial communities was different with each donor. In general, the overall biomass, rather than the specific bacterial species, was the factor most related to U(VI) removal. Vegetable oil and HRC were more effective in stimulating U(VI) removal than acetate. These results suggest that the addition of more complex organic electron donors could be an excellent option for in situ bioremediation of uranium-contaminated groundwater.


Subsurface Uranium reduction Electron donors Microbial community structure