Gene expression modulation by chalcopyrite and bornite inAcidithiobacillus ferrooxidans

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Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans is a mesophilic, acidophilic, chemolithoautotrophic bacterium that obtains energy from the oxidation of ferrous iron (Fe2+), elemental sulfur and reduced sulfur compounds. The industrial interest in A. ferrooxidans resides in its capacity to oxidize insoluble metal sulfides into soluble metal sulfates, thus allowing the recovery of the desired metals from low-grade sulfide ores. In the present work, RNA arbitrarily primed PCR (RAP-PCR) was performed to identify cDNAs differentially expressed in A. ferrooxidans cells grown in the presence of Fe2+ and cells maintained for 24 h in the presence of the copper sulfides bornite and chalcopyrite. Eighteen cDNAs corresponding to genes with known function were identified, and their relative expression was further characterized by real-time quantitative PCR. Bornite had a mild effect on the expression of the 18 genes analyzed. None of these genes was down-regulated and among the few genes up-regulated, it is worth mentioning lepA and def-2 that are involved in protein synthesis. Chalcopyrite presented the most significant changes. Five genes related to protein processing were down-regulated, and another 5 genes related to the transport system were up-regulated. The up- and down-regulation of these genes in the presence of bornite and chalcopyrite could be due to alterations in the ideal pH, presence of copper ions in solution and nutrient limitation. The results suggest that gene expression modulation might be important for the A. ferrooxidans early response to copper sulfides.

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