Mercury methylation by a microbial community from sediments of the Adour Estuary (Bay of Biscay, France)

Environ Pollut. 2008 Dec;156(3):951-8. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2008.05.007. Epub 2008 May 27.


In order to study the influence of microorganisms on the mercury biogeochemistry, the metal content and the structure of microbial communities were determined in sediments from stations along the Adour Estuary. The comparison of the bacterial communities and their distribution in function of the environmental parameters by Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA) revealed the influence of metals on the bacterial communities structure. Sediments where the bacterial communities are mostly influenced by methylmercury were incubated in slurries with or without mercury, under oxic and anoxic conditions. Methylmercury production was detected in the anoxic biotic slurries with a net methylation yield of 0.3% after 24 h. CCA based on T-RFLP profiles revealed the impact of mercury addition on the bacterial communities structure. In addition, 17 bacterial strains, mainly sulphate-reducing bacteria involved in mercury methylation, were isolated and identified.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Ecology / methods
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • France
  • Fresh Water / microbiology*
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology*
  • Mercury / chemistry*
  • Mercury / pharmacology
  • Methylation
  • Methylmercury Compounds / chemistry
  • Organotin Compounds / metabolism
  • Seawater
  • Soil Pollutants / chemistry*
  • Soil Pollutants / pharmacology
  • Sulfur-Reducing Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Sulfur-Reducing Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Trialkyltin Compounds / metabolism
  • Water Pollutants / metabolism
  • Wetlands


  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Organotin Compounds
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Trialkyltin Compounds
  • Water Pollutants
  • Mercury