Microbial Ecology

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 263–274 | Cite as

Biotransformation of mercury by bacteria isolated from a river collecting cinnabar mine waters

  • Franco Baldi
  • Marco Filippelli
  • Gregory J. Olson


One hundred six strains of aerobic bacteria were isolated from the Fiora River which drains an area of cinnabar deposits in southern Tuscany, Italy. Thirty-seven of the strains grew on an agar medium containing 10μg/ml Hg (as HgCl2) with all of these strains producing elemental mercury. Seven of the 37 strains also degraded methylmercury. None of 106 sensitive and resistant strains produced detectable monomethylmercury although 15 strains produced a benzene-soluble mercury species. Two strains of alkylmercury (methyl-, ethyl- and phenylmercury) degrading bacteria were tested for the ability to degrade several other analogous organometals and organic compounds, but no activity was detected toward these compounds. Mercury methylation is not a mechanism of Hg resistance in aerobic bacteria from this environment. Growth of bacteria on the agar medium containing 10μg/ml HgCl2 was diagnostic for Hg detoxification based on reduction.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Franco Baldi
    • 1
  • Marco Filippelli
    • 2
  • Gregory J. Olson
    • 3
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Biologia AmbientaleUniversita di SienaSienaItaly
  2. 2.Laboratorio Chimico d'Igiene e ProfilassiLa SpeziaItaly
  3. 3.Polymers DivisionNational Institute of Standards and TechnologyGaithersburgUSA

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