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Arsenic bioavailability in soils before and after soil washing: the use of Escherichia coli whole-cell bioreporters

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We investigated the quantification of bioavailable arsenic in contaminated soils and evaluation of soil-washing processes in the aspect of bioavailability using a novel bacterial bioreporter developed in present study. The whole-cell bioreporter (WCB) was genetically engineered by fusing the promoter of nik operon from Escherichia coli and green fluorescent protein as a sensing domain and reporter domain. Among eight well-known hazardous heavy metals and metalloid, this system responded specifically to arsenic, thereby inferring association of As(III) with NikR inhibits the repression. Moreover, the response was proportional to the concentration of As(III), thereby it was capable to determine the amount of bioavailable arsenic quantitatively in contaminated soils. The bioavailable portion of arsenic was 5.9 (3.46–10.96) and 0.9 (0.27–1.74) % of total from amended and site soils, respectively, suggesting the bioavailability of arsenic in soils was related to the soil properties and duration of aging. On the other hand, only 1.37 (0.21–2.97) % of total arsenic was extracted into soil solutions and 19.88 (11.86–28.27) % of arsenic in soil solution was bioavailable. This result showed that the soluble arsenic is not all bioavailable and most of bioavailable arsenic in soils is water non-extractable. In addition, the bioavailable arsenic was increased after soil-washing while total amount was decreased, thereby suggesting the soil-washing processes release arsenic associated with soil materials to be bioavailable. Therefore, it would be valuable to have a tool to assess bioavailability and the bioavailability should be taken into consideration for soil remediation plans.

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This work was supported by the Korean Ministry of the Environment as a GAIA Project (2014000560001). We thank the Korea Basic Science Institute (KBSI) for the ICP-MS analysis.

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Correspondence to Youn-Joo An.

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Responsible editor: Zhihong Xu

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Yoon, Y., Kang, Y., Chae, Y. et al. Arsenic bioavailability in soils before and after soil washing: the use of Escherichia coli whole-cell bioreporters. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23, 2353–2361 (2016).

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