Arsenic (As) contamination of freshwater resources constitutes a major environmental issue affecting over 200 million people worldwide. Although the use of microorganisms for the bioremediation of As has been well studied, only very few candidates have been identified to date. Here, we investigated bacteria associated with the Red Sea sponge Theonella swinhoei and their potential to reduce As in a low-salinity liquid medium. This Indo-Pacific common sponge has been shown to hyper-accumulate As, at an average concentration of 8600 mg/g-1 in an environment uncontaminated by arsenic or barium. Four isolated strains of bacteria exhibited arsenic reduction potential by transforming inorganic As in the form of arsenate (iAsV) to arsenite (iAsIII). Two of these isolates were identified as Alteromonas macleodii and Pseudovibrio ascidisceicola, and the other two isolates, both belonging to the same species, were identified as Pseudovibrio denitrificans. The four isolates were then cultured in a low-salinity iAsV-rich medium (5 mM) and As concentration was measured over time using a specifically designed high-performance liquid chromatograph coupled to a mass spectrometer (HPLC-MS). Out of the four isolates, A. macleodii and P. ascidisceicola grew successfully in a low-salinity liquid medium and reduced AsV to AsIII at an average rate of 0.094 and 0.083 mM/h, respectively, thereby demonstrating great potential for the bioremediation of As-contaminated groundwater.
- Theonella swinhoei