A Microbial Arsenic Cycle in a Salt-Saturated, Extreme Environment

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Science  27 May 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5726, pp. 1305-1308
DOI: 10.1126/science.1110832

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Searles Lake is a salt-saturated, alkaline brine unusually rich in the toxic element arsenic. Arsenic speciation changed from arsenate [As(V)] to arsenite [As(III)] with sediment depth. Incubated anoxic sediment slurries displayed dissimilatory As(V)-reductase activity that was markedly stimulated by H2 or sulfide, whereas aerobic slurries had rapid As(III)-oxidase activity. An anaerobic, extremely haloalkaliphilic bacterium was isolated from the sediment that grew via As(V) respiration, using either lactate or sulfide as its electron donor. Hence, a full biogeochemical cycle of arsenic occurs in Searles Lake, driven in part by inorganic electron donors.

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