Characterization of Aspergillus niger siderophore that mediates bioleaching of rare earth elements from phosphorites

World J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2019 Jun 11;35(6):93. doi: 10.1007/s11274-019-2666-1.


Siderophores are extra-cellular inducible compounds produced by aerobic microorganisms and plants to overcome iron insolubility via its chelation and then uptake inside the cell. This work aims to study the characteristics of siderophore that is produced by a rhizosphere-inhabiting fungus. This fungus has been morphologically and molecularly identified as Aspergillus niger with the ability to produce 87% siderophore units. The obtained siderophore in PDB medium gave a positive result with tetrazolium test and a characteristic spectrum with a maximum absorbance at 450 nm in FeCl3 test that did not shift in response to different pH degrees (5-9). This indicates that the obtained siderophore is a trihydroxymate in nature. After purification, the FTIR and NMR analyses showed that the obtained siderophore is considered to be ferrichrome. The purified siderophore has been further evaluated as a tool to extract uranium, thorium and rare earth elements (REEs) from Egyptian phosphorites obtained from Abu Tartur Mine area. The inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy analysis showed that the highest removal efficiency percentage was for uranium (69.5%), followed by samarium (66.7%), thorium (55%), lanthanum (51%), and cerium (50.1%). This result confirmed the ability of hydroxymate siderophores to chelate the aforementioned precious elements, a result that paves the way for bioleaching to replace abiotic techniques in order to save the cost of such elements in an environmentally friendly way.

Keywords: Aspergillus niger; Bioleaching; Egyptian phosphorites; Ferrichrome; Hydroxymate siderophores; Rare earth elements.

MeSH terms

  • Aspergillus niger / classification
  • Aspergillus niger / genetics
  • Aspergillus niger / isolation & purification*
  • Aspergillus niger / metabolism*
  • Egypt
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Ferrichrome
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Iron
  • Minerals
  • Phosphates
  • Rhizosphere
  • Siderophores / isolation & purification*
  • Siderophores / metabolism*
  • Soil Microbiology*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Minerals
  • Phosphates
  • Siderophores
  • Ferrichrome
  • phosphorite
  • Iron