Washed-cell suspensions of Sulfurospirillum barnesii reduced selenate [Se(VI)] when cells were cultured with nitrate, thiosulfate, arsenate, or fumarate as the electron acceptor. When the concentration of the electron donor was limiting, Se(VI) reduction in whole cells was approximately fourfold greater in Se(VI)-grown cells than was observed in nitrate-grown cells; correspondingly, nitrate reduction was ~11-fold higher in nitrate-grown cells than in Se(VI)-grown cells. However, a simultaneous reduction of nitrate and Se(VI) was observed in both cases. At nonlimiting electron donor concentrations, nitrate- grown cells suspended with equimolar nitrate and selenate achieved a complete reductive removal of nitrogen and selenium oxyanions, with the bulk of nitrate reduction preceding that of selenate reduction. Chloramphenicol did not inhibit these reductions. The Se(VI)-respiring haloalkaliphile Bacillus arsenicoselenatis gave similar results, but its Se(VI) reductase was not constitutive in nitrate-grown cells. No reduction of Se(VI) was noted for Bacillus selenitireducens, which respires selenite. The results of kinetic experiments with cell membrane preparations of S. barnesii suggest the presence of constitutive selenate and nitrate reduction, as well as an inducible, high- affinity nitrate reductase in nitrate-grown cells which also has a low affinity for selenate. The simultaneous reduction of micromolar Se(VI) in the presence of millimolar nitrate indicates that these organisms may have a functional use in bioremediating nitrate-rich, seleniferous agricultural wastewaters. Results with 75Se-selenate tracer show that these organisms can lower ambient Se(VI) concentrations to levels in compliance with new regulations proposed for release of selenium oxyanions into the environment.
Additional publication details
Simultaneous reduction of nitrate and selenate by cell suspensions of selenium-respiring bacteria