ABSTRACT: The kinetics of inorganic Hg [Hg(II)(i)] association, methylation, and methylmercury (MeHg) demethylation were examined for a group of Desulfovibrio species with and without MeHg production capability. We employed a detailed method for assessing MeHg production in cultures, including careful control of medium chemistry, cell density, and growth phase, plus mass balance of Hg(II)(i) and MeHg during the assays. We tested the hypothesis that differences in Hg(II)(i) sorption and/or uptake rates drive observed differences in methylation rates among Desulfovibrio species. Hg(II)(i) associated rapidly and with high affinity to both methylating and nonmethylating species. MeHg production by Hg-methylating strains was rapid, plateauing after ∼3 h. All MeHg produced was rapidly exported. We also tested the idea that all Desulfovibrio species are capable of Hg(II)(i) methylation but that rapid demethylation masks its production, but we found this was not the case. Therefore, the underlying reason why MeHg production capability is not universal in the Desulfovibrio is not differences in Hg affinity for cells nor differences in the ability of strains to degrade MeHg. However, Hg methylation rates varied substantially between Hg-methylating Desulfovibrio species even in these controlled experiments and after normalization to cell density. Thus, biological differences may drive cross-species differences in Hg methylation rates. As part of this study, we identified four new Hg methylators (Desulfovibrio aespoeensis, D. alkalitolerans, D. psychrotolerans, and D. sulfodismutans) and four nonmethylating species (Desulfovibrio alcoholivorans, D. tunisiensis, D. carbinoliphilus, and D. piger) in our ongoing effort to generate a library of strains for Hg methylation genomics.
Applied and environmental microbiology 08/2012; 78(20):7337-46. · 3.69 Impact Factor