Chromate is one of the major anthropogenic contaminants on Earth. Leucobacter chromiiresistens is a highly chromate-resistant strain, tolerating chromate concentrations in LB medium of up to 400 mM. In response to chromate stress, L. chromiiresistens forms biofilms, which are held together via extracellular DNA. Inhibition of biofilm formation leads to drastically decreased chromate tolerance. Moreover, chromate is reduced intracellularly to the less-toxic Cr(III). The oxidation status and localization of chromium in cell aggregates were analyzed by energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy coupled to scanning transmission electron microscopy and X-ray absorption spectroscopy measurements. Most of the heavy metal is localized as Cr(III) at the cytoplasmic membrane. As a new cellular response to chromate stress, we observed an increased production of the carotenoid lutein. Carotenoid production could increase membrane stability and reduce the concentration of reactive oxygen species. Bioinformatic analysis of the L. chromiiresistens genome revealed several gene clusters that could enable heavy-metal resistance. The extreme chromate tolerance and the unique set of resistance factors suggest the use of L. chromiiresistens as a new model organism to study microbial chromate resistance.IMPORTANCE Chromate is a highly toxic oxyanion. Extensive industrial use and inadequate waste management has caused the toxic pollution of several field sites. Understanding the chromate resistance mechanisms that enable organisms to thrive under these conditions is fundamental to develop (micro)biological strategies and applications aiming at bioremediation of contaminated soils or waters. Potential detoxifying microorganisms are often not sufficient in their resistance characteristics to effectively perform, e.g., chromate reduction or biosorption. In this study, we describe the manifold strategies of L. chromiiresistens to establish an extremely high level of chromate resistance. The multitude of mechanisms conferring it make this organism suitable for consideration as a new model organism to study chromate resistance.
Keywords: Leucobacter; chromate resistance; heavy metals; heavy-metal resistance.
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