Bioimmobilization of toxic metals by precipitation of carbonates using Sporosarcina luteola: An in vitro study and application to sulfide-bearing tailings

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Jul 1:724:138124. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138124. Epub 2020 Mar 25.


Metal release from mining wastes is a major environmental problem affecting ecosystems that requires effective, low-cost strategies for prevention and reclamation. The capacity of two strains (UB3 and UB5) of Sporosarcina luteola was investigated to induce the sequestration of metals by precipitation of carbonates in vitro and under microcosm conditions. These strains carry the ureC gene and have high urease activity. Also, they are highly resistant to metals and have the capacity for producing metallophores and arsenophores. SEM, EDX and XRD reveal that the two strains induced precipitation of calcite, vaterite and magnesian calcite as well as several (M2+)CO3 such as hydromagnesite (Mg2+), rhodochrosite (Mn2+), cerussite (Pb2+), otavite (Cd2+), strontianite (Sr2+), witherite (Ba2+) and hydrozincite (Zn2+) in vitro. Inoculation of the mixed culture of UB3+UB5 in tailings increased the pH and induced the precipitation of vaterite, calcite and smithsonite enhancing biocementation and reducing pore size and permeability slowing down the oxidation of residual sulfides. Results further demonstrated that the strains of S. luteola immobilize bioavailable toxic elements through the precipitation and coprecipitation of thermodynamically stable (M2+)CO3, Fe-Mn oxyhydroxides and organic chelates.

Keywords: Carbonate precipitation; Metal bioremediation; Metallophore; Porosity reduction; Ureolytic bacteria.

MeSH terms

  • Carbonates
  • Ecosystem
  • Sporosarcina*
  • Sulfides


  • Carbonates
  • Sulfides

Supplementary concepts

  • Sporosarcina luteola