Biotech Updates

Role of Fungi in the Biogeochemical Fate of Uranium

May 9, 2008

Depleted uranium are abundant in the warring areas of Iraq and the Balkans. This metal, which is composed of 97.25% uranium and .75% titanium although less radioactive has the same chemotoxicity as a natural uranium and poses a threat to human population. Uranium can form stable water-soluble complexes and could bind with organic substances to form new substances. This suggest that living organisms could play an important role in geochemical transformations and cycling.

One of the more abundant microorganisms that can conduct mineral transformation is the fungi. An example is the mycorrhiza which forms mutualistic symbiotic association with plant to perform mineral transformation. A study published in the recent issue of Cell Biology reports that the fungi can also play a role in the biogeochemical degradation of depleted uranium. A particular species of mycorrhiza can colonize surfaces of the depleted uranium and transform it into uranyl phosphate minerals.

The abstract of the article can be accessed at: