Cadmium (Cd)-contaminated waterbodies are a worldwide concern for the environment, impacting human health. To address the need for efficient, sustainable and cost-effective remediation measures, we developed innovative Cd bioremediation agents by engineering Escherichia coli to assemble poly(3-hydroxybutyric acid) (PHB) beads densely coated with Cd-binding peptides. This was accomplished by translational fusion of Cd-binding peptides to the N- or C-terminus of a PHB synthase that catalyzes PHB synthesis and mediates assembly of Cd2 or Cd1 coated PHB beads, respectively. Cd1 beads showed greater Cd adsorption with 441 nmol Cd mg-1 bead mass when compared to Cd2 beads (334 nmol Cd mg-1 bead-mass) and plain beads (238 nmol Cd mg-1 bead-mass). The Cd beads were not ecotoxic and did attenuate Cd-spiked solutions toxicity. Overall, the bioengineered beads provide a means to remediate Cd-contaminated sites, can be cost-effectively produced at large scale, and offer a biodegradable and safe alternative to synthetic ecotoxic treatments.
Keywords: Biosorption; Cadmium; Contact assay; Metal-binding peptides; PHA synthase.
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