"Environment" research area

Engineering Bacteria for Enhanced Bioaccumulation of Toxic Metals

Primary Investigator - Jeffrey GralnickPrimary InvestigatorJeffrey Gralnick
Co-InvestigatorsBrittany Bennett, Peter Intile, and Kaitlyn Redford (Undergraduate Scholar)
Industry PartnersNA
Award Type: Seed Grant - Undergraduate Research Scholar

Problem: Mining generates a large amount of economic activity in Minnesota but can have undesirable consequences such as the release of large amounts of heavy metals into the environment. At certain concentrations, heavy metals become toxic to living organisms. New remediation methods are necessary to reduce the environmental impact of an important industry. 

Solution: Shewanella spp. are a type of environmental bacteria commonly found in aquatic sediments with heavy metals like manganese, chromium, arsenate, and uranium. Unlike other bacteria, Shewanella spp. have metal ion transport proteins which allows them to utilize heavy metals. The Gralnick Lab will characterize a gene called SO_3966 in Shewanella oneidensis which is believed to encode a protein that imports heavy metals into the bacteria. MnDRIVE researchers will identify which types of heavy metals can be imported by the protein, how the protein activity varies along different metal concentrations, and if similar genes are present in other Shewanella spp. bacteria.

Impact: The Gralnick Lab will examine how overexpression of the SO_3966 gene impacts the ability of Shewanella oneidensis to remove heavy metals from the surrounding environment. Characterizing the SO_3966 gene will provide information for how the bacteria could be adapted to remove heavy metals from contaminated soils and waters.