Microbial reduction of iron(III)-rich nontronite and uranium(VI)

Gengxin Zhang, John M. Senko, Shelly D. Kelly, Hui Tan, Kenneth M. Kemner, William D. Burgos

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53 Scopus citations


To assess the dynamics of microbially mediated U-clay redox reactions, we examined the reduction of iron(III)-rich nontronite NAu-2 and uranium(VI) by Shewanella oneidensis MR-1. Bioreduction experiments were conducted with combinations and varied concentrations of MR-1, nontronite, U(VI) and the electron shuttle anthraquinone-2,6-disulfonate (AQDS). Abiotic experiments were conducted to quantify U(VI) sorption to NAu-2, the reduction of U(VI) by chemically-reduced nontronite-Fe(II), and the oxidation of uraninite, U(IV)O2(s), by nontronite-Fe(III). When we incubated S. oneidensis MR-1 at lower concentration (0.5 × 108 cell mL-1) with nontronite (5.0 g L-1) and U(VI) (1.0 mM), little U(VI) reduction occurred compared to nontronite-free incubations, despite the production of abundant Fe(II). The addition of AQDS to U(VI)- and nontronite-containing incubations enhanced both U(VI) and nontronite-Fe(III) reduction. While U(VI) was completely reduced by S. oneidensis MR-1 at higher concentration (1.0 × 108 cell mL-1) in the presence of nontronite, increasing concentrations of nontronite led to progressively slower rates of U(VI) reduction. U(VI) enhanced nontronite-Fe(III) reduction and uraninite was oxidized by nontronite-Fe(III), demonstrating that U served as an effective electron shuttle from S. oneidensis MR-1 to nontronite-Fe(III). The electron-shuttling activity of U can explain the lack or delay of U(VI) reduction observed in the bulk solution. Little U(VI) reduction was observed in incubations that contained chemically-reduced nontronite-Fe(II), suggesting that biologic U(VI) reduction drove U valence cycling in these systems. Under the conditions used in these experiments, we demonstrate that iron-rich smectite may inhibit or delay U(VI) bioreduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3523-3538
Number of pages16
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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