Current Microbiology

, Volume 65, Issue 1, pp 14–21 | Cite as

Molecular Characterization of Mercury Resistant Bacteria Inhabiting Polluted Water Bodies of Different Geographical Locations in India

  • Arif Tasleem Jan
  • Mudsser Azam
  • Arif Ali
  • Qazi Mohd. Rizwanul HaqEmail author


Mercury pollution is a major environmental problem that arises as a result of natural processes as well as from anthropogenic sources. In response to toxic mercury compounds, microbes have developed astonishing array of resistance systems to detoxify them. To address this challenge, this study was aimed in screening bacterial isolates for their tolerance against varied concentrations of phenylmercuric acetate. Mercury transformation by bacteria being sensitive to factors such as available carbon source, etc. that affect mer-mediated transformation, screened mercury tolerant bacteria were also studied for their tolerance to different antimicrobials and carbon sources, followed by identification using biochemical as well as 16S rRNA approach. Following identification, gene encoding organomercurial lyase catalyzing protonolytic cleavage of C–Hg bond of organic mercury was amplified using gene specific primers, cloned in pGEMT® easy vector and sequenced. Microbe-based approach using organomercurial lyase encoded by merB gene being potentially economic, provides foundation to facilitate genetic manipulation of this environmentally important enzyme to remove high concentrations of obstinate mercury using holistic, multifaceted approach for use in bioremediation through generation of transgenics or as catalyst for use in bioreactors.


Mercury Horizontal Gene Transfer Cold Vapor Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy Mercury Resistance Yamuna River 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



One of the authors, Arif Tasleem Jan is thankful to Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India, for financial assistance in terms of fellowship. Authors are also thankful to Dr. Inshad (Scientist, Indian institute of Integrative Medicine, Jammu) for providing standard Pseudomonas aeruginosa ATCC 9027 strain.

Supplementary material

284_2012_118_MOESM1_ESM.doc (54 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 53 kb)
284_2012_118_MOESM2_ESM.doc (148 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 148 kb)
284_2012_118_MOESM3_ESM.doc (55 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOC 55 kb)


  1. 1.
    De J, Ramaiah N (2007) Characterization of marine bacteria highly resistant to mercury exhibiting multiple resistances to toxic chemicals. Ecol Ind 7:511–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Clinical and Laboratory Standard Institute (2006) Performance standards for antimicrobial susceptibility testing. In: 16th informational supplement, Wayne, PAGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Felnagle EA, Rondon MR, Berti AD, Crosby HA, Thomas MG (2007) Identification of biosynthetic gene cluster and an additional gene for resistance to antituberculosis drug capreomycin. Appl Environ Microbiol 73:4162–4170PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Gupta N, Ali A (2004) Mercury volatilization by R factor systems in Escherichia coli isolated from aquatic environments of India. Curr Microbiol 48:88–96PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Horn JM, Brunke M, Deckwer WD, Timmis KN (1994) Pseudomonas putida strains which constitutively overexpress mercury resistance for biodetoxification of organomercurial pollutants. Appl Environ Microbiol 60:357–362PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Jan AT, Murtaza I, Ali A, Haq QMR (2009) Mercury pollution: an emerging problem and potential bacterial remediation strategies. World J Microbiol Biotechnol 25:1529–1537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kiyono M, Pan-Hou H (2006) Genetic engineering of bacteria for environmental remediation of mercury. J Health Sci 52:199–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Lal D, Lal R (2010) Evolution of mercuric reductase (mer A) gene: a case of horizontal gene transfer. Mikrobiologiia 79:524–531PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Mathema VB, Thakuri BC, Sillanpaa M (2011) Bacterial mer operon mediated detoxification of mercurial compounds: A short review. Arch Microbiol 193:837–844PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Miller SM (2007) Cleaving C–Hg bonds: two thiolates are better than one. Nat Chem Biol 3:537–538PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Mukhopadhyay K, Kohli A, Prasad R (2002) Drug susceptibilities of yeast cells are affected by membrane lipid composition. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 46:3695–3705PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Nascimento AMA, Chartone-Souza E (2003) Operon mer: bacterial resistance to mercury and potential for bioremediation of contaminated environments. Genet Mol Res 2:92–101PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Pitts KE, Summers AO (2002) Role of thiols in the bacterial organomercurial lyase. Biochemistry 41:10287–10296PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ramaiah N, De J (2003) Unusual rise in mercury resistant bacteria in coastal environments. Microb Ecol 45:444–454PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Singh P, Cameotra SS (2004) Enhancement of metal bioremediation by use of microbial biosurfactants. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 319:291–297PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Tonomura K, Maeda K, Futai F, Nakagami T, Yamada M (1968) Stimulative vaporization of phenylmercuric acetate by mercury resistant bacteria. Nature 217:644–646PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Zhang W, Chen L, Liu D (2012) Characterization of a marine isolated mercury resistant Pseudomonas putida strain SP1 and its potential application in marine mercury reduction. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 93:1305–1314PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arif Tasleem Jan
    • 1
  • Mudsser Azam
    • 1
  • Arif Ali
    • 1
  • Qazi Mohd. Rizwanul Haq
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of BiosciencesJamia Millia IslamiaNew DelhiIndia

Personalised recommendations