Water Air & Soil Pollution

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 465–475 | Cite as

Environmental applications of mercury resistant bacteria

  • Franco Baldi
  • Franca Semplici
  • Marco Filippelli


Bacteria are resistant to Hg compounds by virtue of two specific enzymes: mercuric reductase and organomercurial lyase. We investigate these specific enzyme systems 1) to determine McHg in biological samples by its enzymatic transformation to the respective hydrocarbon and 2) as an environmental index of Hg pollution in geothermal areas, by studying the distribution of the percentage of Hg-resistant bacteria.

The first application is based on the enzymatic conversion of McHg to CH4. by whole cells of the Pseudomonas putida strain FBI. A 1 ml aliquot of 0.01N aqueous solution of thiosulphate containing MeHg, extracted from a biological sample by a conventional procedure was mixed with a dense (1 mg cells/mL dw) culture of FBI strain in a microreaction vessel. After a suitable period of incubation (from 4 to 18 hours), methane was assayed in the headspace by gas chromatograph equipped with flame ionization detector.

In the second application, Hg-resistant bacteria (MRB) isolated from mosses collected in a geothermal area (Travale) in Tuscany showed almost the same distribution pattern as total Hg in briophytes. Mosses and MRB are both suitable bioindicators for mapping contaminated areas. The finding of Hg-resistant strains depends on the availability of the metal for cell accumulation and interaction at molecular level in the cytoplasm to produce mercuric reductase. MRB/g dw is therefore an indirect measure of the enzyme in this terrestrial geothermal environment.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, F.K., and Treshow M.: 1984 In Air Pollut. Plant Life, Ed. Treshow, M. John Wiley & Sons Ltd pp.259.Google Scholar
  2. Baldi, F., Olson, G.J., and Brinckman, F.E.: 1985. Geomicrobiol. J., 5, Geomicrobiol. J., 5, 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baldi, F.: 1987. Water,Soil Air Pollut. 38, 111.Google Scholar
  4. Baldi, F., Coratza, G., Manganelli, R., and Pozzi, G.: 1988a. Microbios 54, 7Google Scholar
  5. Baldi, F., E. Cozzani, and M. Filippelli: 1988b. Environ. Sci.Technol. 22, 836CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baldi, F., Filippelli, M. and Olson, G.J., 1989: Microbiol. Ecol. 17, 263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baldi, F and Filippelli, M.: 1990. Env.Sci.Technol. (in press).Google Scholar
  8. Baldi, F., Boudou, A., and Ribeyre: Water Res. (submitted).Google Scholar
  9. Barkay, T., Fouts, D.L., Olson, B.H.,:1985. Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 49, 686Google Scholar
  10. Barkay, T., and Olson, B.H.: 1986, Appl.Environ.Microbiol. 52,403.Google Scholar
  11. Barkay, T.: 1987, Appl.Environ.Microbiol., 53, 2725.Google Scholar
  12. Barkay, T., Liebert, C., and Gillman, M.: 1990 Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 56,1695Google Scholar
  13. Barrineau, P., Gilbert, P., Jackson, W.J., Jones,C.S., Summers, A.O., and Wisdom, S.:1984. J. Mol. Appl. Genet. 2, 601.Google Scholar
  14. Bennett, P. M., Grinsted, J.,Choi,C.-L., and Richmond, M. H: 1978. Mol. Gen. Genet., 159, 101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Booth, J. I, and Williams, J.W.: 1984, J.General Microbiol. 130, 725.Google Scholar
  16. Brown N. L.: 1985, Trends Biochem.Sci.,41,400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Filippelli, M.:1986., Anal. Chem., 59,116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Furukawa, K. Suzuki, T., and Tonomura, K.:1969, Agric.Biol.Chem., 33,128.Google Scholar
  19. Furukawa,K. and Tonomura,K.:1972, Agric.Biol. Chem., 36, 217.Google Scholar
  20. Hansen, C.L., Zwolinski, Martin, D., and Williams, J.W.: 1984, Biotechnol. Bioengineering, 26,1330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Moore, B.:1960,.Lancet, 2: 453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Nakamura, K. Fujisaki, T., and Tamashiro, H.: 1986. Environ. Res. 40, 58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Nelson,J. D., and Colwell, R. R.:1975, Microbial. Ecol. 1,191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Novick, R. T. and Roth, C., 1968, J. Bacteriol. 95,1335.Google Scholar
  25. Ogawa, H. I., Tolle, C. L., Summers, A.O.:1984, Gene 32, 311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Porter, F. D., Silver, S., Ong, C., and Nakamara, H.:1982, Antimicrob.Agents Chemother. 22, 852.Google Scholar
  27. Rasmussen,L.:1977, Environ.Pollut.,14, 37.Google Scholar
  28. Report No. 26. 1985. International Atomic Agency, Laboratory of Marine Radioactivity, Oceanographic Museum; Monaco-Montecarlo, October 1985.Google Scholar
  29. Robinson,J. B., and Tuovinen,O.H.:1984. Microbial Rev. 48,95.Google Scholar
  30. Stoeppler, M., and Backhaus, F.:1978. Fresenius Z. Anal. Chem., 291, 116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Tezuka,T. and Tonomura, K.:1976, J. Biochem.(Tokio) 80, 79.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Franco Baldi
    • 1
  • Franca Semplici
    • 1
  • Marco Filippelli
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Environmental BiologyUniversity of SienaSiena
  2. 2.Chemistry Laboratory of Hygiene and ProphylaxisLa SpeziaItaly

Personalised recommendations