Matrix composition and community structure analysis of a novel bacterial pyrite leaching community


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Abstract

SummaryHere we describe a novel bacterial community that is embedded in a matrix of carbohydrates and bio/geochemical products of pyrite (FeS2) oxidation. This community grows in stalactite-like structures – snottites – on the ceiling of an abandoned pyrite mine at pH values of 2.2–2.6. The aqueous phase in the matrix contains 200 mM of sulfate and total iron concentrations of 60 mM. Micro-X-ray diffraction analysis showed that jarosite [(K,Na,H3O)Fe3(SO4)2(OH)6] is the major mineral embedded in the snottites. X-ray absorption near-edge structure experiments revealed three different sulfur species. The major signal can be ascribed to sulfate, and the other two features may correspond to thiols and sulfoxides. Arabinose was detected as the major sugar component in the extracellular polymeric substance. Via restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis, a community was found that mainly consists of iron oxidizing Leptospirillum and Ferrovum species but also of bacteria that could be involved in dissimilatory sulfate and dissimilatory iron reduction. Each snottite can be regarded as a complex, self-contained consortium of bacterial species fuelled by the decomposition of pyrite.

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