Nutrient limitation is an environmental stress that may reduce the effectiveness of bioremediation strategies, especially when the contaminants are organic compounds or when organic compounds are added to promote microbial activities such as metal reduction. Genes indicative of phosphate-limitation were identified by microarray analysis of chemostat cultures of Geobacter sulfureducens. This analysis revealed that genes in the pst-pho operon, which is associated with a high-affinity phosphate uptake system in other microorganisms, had significantly higher transcript abundance under phosphate-limiting conditions, with the genes pstB and phoU upregulated the most. Quantitative PCR analysis of pstB and phoU transcript levels in G. sulfurreducens grown in chemostats demonstrated that the expression of these genes increased when phosphate was removed from the culture medium. Transcripts of pstB and phoU within the subsurface Geobacter species predominating during an in situ uranium-bioremediation field experiment were more abundant than in chemostat cultures of G. sulfurreducens that were not limited for phosphate. Addition of phosphate to incubations of subsurface sediments did not stimulate dissimilatory metal reduction. The added phosphate was rapidly adsorbed onto the sediments. The results demonstrate that Geobacter species can effectively reduce U(VI) even when experiencing suboptimal phosphate concentrations and that increasing phosphate availability with phosphate additions is difficult to achieve because of the high reactivity of this compound. This transcript-based approach developed for diagnosing phosphate limitation should be applicable to assessing the potential need for additional phosphate in other bioremediation processes.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/derek_lovley/50/