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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1985 August; 50(2): 342–349.
PMCID: PMC238626

Effects of Chemical Speciation on the Mineralization of Organic Compounds by Microorganisms


The mineralization of 1.0 to 100 ng each of four complexing compounds—oxalate, citrate, nitrilotriacetate (NTA), and EDTA—per ml was tested in media prepared in accordance with equilibrium calculations by a computer program so that the H, Ca, Mg, Fe, or Al complex (chemical species) was predominant. Sewage microorganisms mineralized calcium citrate more rapidly than iron, aluminum, or hydrogen citrate, and magnesium citrate was degraded slowest. Aluminum, hydrogen, and iron oxalates were mineralized more rapidly than calcium oxalate, and magnesium oxalate was decomposed slowest. Sewage microorganisms mineralized calcium NTA but not aluminum, magnesium, hydrogen, or iron NTA or any of the EDTA complexes. Pseudomonas sp. mineralized calcium and iron citrates but had no activity on hydrogen, aluminum, or magnesium citrate. Pseudomonas pseudoalcaligenes mineralized calcium, iron, hydrogen, and aluminum citrates but had little activity on magnesium citrate. Pseudomonas alcaligenes used calcium, iron, hydrogen, and aluminum oxalates readily, but it used magnesium oxalate at a slower rate. Listeria sp. destroyed calcium NTA but had no effect on hydrogen, iron, or magnesium NTA. Increasing the Ca concentration in the medium enhanced the breakdown of NTA by Listeria sp. The different activities of the bacterial isolates were not a result of the toxicity of the complexes or the lack of availability of a nutrient element. NTA mineralization was not enhanced by the addition of Ca to Beebe Lake water, but it was enhanced when Ca and an NTA-degrading inoculum were added to water from an oligotrophic lake. The data show that chemical speciation influences the mineralization of organic compounds by naturally occurring microbial communities and by individual bacterial populations.

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