Archives of Microbiology

, Volume 156, Issue 6, pp 507–512 | Cite as

Aluminium toxicity and binding to Escherichia coli

  • Laura Guida
  • Ziba Saidi
  • Martin N. Hughes
  • Robert K. Poole
Original Papers


The toxicity and binding of aluminium to Escherichia coli has been studied. Inhibition of growth by aluminium nitrate was markedly dependent on pH; growth in medium buffered to pH 5.4 was more sensitive to 0.9 mM or 2.25 mM aluminium than was growth at pH 6.6–6.8. In medium buffered with 2-(N-morpholino)ethanesulphonic acid (MES), aluminium toxicity was enhanced by omission of iron from the medium or by use of exponential phase starter cultures. Analysis of bound aluminium by atomic absorption spectroscopy showed that aluminium was bound intracellularly at one type of site with a Km of 0.4 mM and a capacity of 0.13 mol (g dry wt)-1. In contrast, binding of aluminium at the cell surface occurred at two or more sites with evidence of cooperativity. Addition of aluminium nitrate to a weakly buffered cell suspension caused acidification of the medium attributable to displacement of protons from cell surfaces by metal cations. It is concluded that aluminium toxicity is related to pH-dependent speciation [with Al(H2O) 6 3+ probably being the active species] and chelation of aluminium in the medium. Aluminium transport to intracellular binding sites may involve Fe(III) transport pathways.

Key words

Aluminium and bacteria Metal speciation Iron transport Biosorption of metals Metal-microbe interactions Escherichia coli 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Guida
    • 1
  • Ziba Saidi
    • 1
  • Martin N. Hughes
    • 2
  • Robert K. Poole
    • 1
  1. 1.Microbial Physiology Research Group, Biosphere Sciences DivisionKing's College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Chemistry DepartmentKing's College LondonLondonUK

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