Feature Article

Frontiers of Earth Science in China

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 127-147

First online:

Mineral-microbe interactions: a review

  • Hailiang DongAffiliated withKey Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental Geology of Ministry of Education, China University of GeosciencesGeomicrobiology Laboratory, State Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral Resources, China University of GeosciencesDepartment of Geology, Miami University Email author 

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The studies of mineral-microbe interactions lie at the heart of the emerging field of Geomicrobiology, as minerals and rocks are the most fundamental earth materials with which microbes interact at all scales. Microbes have been found in a number of the Earth’s extreme environments and beyond. In spite of the diverse geological environments in which microbes are found and diverse approaches taken to study them, a common thread, mineral-microbe interactions, connects all these environments and experimental approaches under the same umbrella, i.e., Geomicrobiology. Minerals and rocks provide microbes with nutrients and living habitats, and microbes impact rock and mineral weathering and diagenesis rates through their effects on mineral solubility and speciation. Given a rapid growth of research in this area in the last two decades, it is not possible to provide a comprehensive review on the topic. This review paper focuses on three area, i.e., microbial dissolution of minerals, microbial formation of minerals, and certain techniques to study mineral-microbe interactions. Under the first area, three subjects are reviewed; they include siderophores as important agents in promoting mineral dissolution, microbial oxidation of reduced minerals (acid mine drainage and microbial leaching of ores), and microbial reduction of oxidized minerals. Under the second topic, both biologically controlled and induced mineralizations are reviewed with a special focus on microbially induced mineralization (microbial surface mediated mineral precipitation and microbial precipitation of carbonates). Under the topic of characterization, the focus is on transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and electron energy loss spectroscopy. It is the author’s hope that this review will promote more focused research on mineral-microbe interactions and encourage more collaboration between microbiologists and mineralogists.


interaction microbe mineral oxidation reduction siderophores transmission electron microscopy (TEM)