A Study of Cell Viability on DOE Hanford Soil Isolates: Effect of U (VI)

A Study of Cell Viability on DOE Hanford Soil Isolates:
Effect of U (VI) and Bicarbonate
Paola Sepulveda, BS, Biomedical Engineering
(Graduate Student, DOE Fellow)
In 2005, a study began to identify and evaluate remedial strategies to
sequester uranium contamination in the subsurface.
The injection of a polyphosphate amendment in hot spot areas
significantly reduces the inventory of available uranium that contributes
to the groundwater plumes.
This in situ remediation process via polyphosphate injections into
contaminated groundwater results in the formation of uranyl phosphate
solid phases in the soil and groundwater, such as autunite.
Because autunite sequesters uranium in the oxidized form, U(VI), rather
than forcing reduction to U(IV), the possibility of subsequent remobilization of uranium is prevented.
Figure 1. G968 control sample (scan size 2.5 x 2.5
illustrating smooth
bacterial surface. The topographic image on the left, deflection image in
the middle and friction image on the right.
In addition, formed autunite, as a phosphorus-containing mineral, can
attract bacteria to liberate phosphorus, meeting their nutrient
requirements and causing U release back into the environment.
The significance of bacteria-uranium interactions has been illustrated by
focusing on three bacterial strains of Arthrobacter sp, isolated from
Hanford Site soil.
This research was extended to investigate the stability of the autunite
mineral in oxidized conditions pertaining to the Hanford Site, and to
study the effect of the Arthrobacter oxydans SMCC G968 strain on the U
(VI) release from autunite.
Adhesion forces are sensitive to modifications in the surface;
so, a force spectroscopy analysis was performed to gain a
better understanding of the interactions at the atomic level.
When bicarbonate is present within the solution, the adhesion
forces showed similar values to that of the control sample
when no uranium is present.
Inspect bacterial surfaces after exposure to U (VI) in the bicarbonatebearing synthetic groundwater solution via atomic-force microscopy
Investigate cell viability via Live/Dead Fluorescent assay
Bacterial cell growth
 5% PTYG liquid culture media
 Two days
Log 7 cells/mL of the bacterial stock solution was incorporated with uranyl
nitrate and SGW media to create individual samples for analysis.
Samples for viability assessment were similar to samples used for AFM
 3 μL of the dye mixture was added for each mL of the bacterial
 Equal parts of SYTO9 and propidium iodide
The samples were incubated at room temperature in the dark for 15
minutes and washed 3 times to prevent a bright background when
 Five microliters of the stained bacterial suspension was placed on a
microscope slide and allowed to dry for 1 hr before being imaged via a
fluorescence microscope.
Figure 5. Live/Dead assay sample containing 10 ppm of U (VI) with no
bicarbonate. This sample illustrates a higher concentration of dead
cells compared to the figure below.
There is an inverse relationship between the adhesion forces
and the concentration of uranium; as the concentration of
uranium increases, the adhesion forces will decrease
Adhesion (nN)
5ppm U, 0 mM HCO3
5ppm U, 5 mM HCO3
10ppm U, 0 mM HCO3
10ppm U, 5 mM HCO3
Figure 2. G968 control sample with a maximum height of 198. The
profile plot is on the left with the 3D topographic image on the right.
Figure 3. 10 ppm U (VI) and 0 mM bicarbonate. The profile heights:
70-90 nm.
Figure 6. Live/Dead assay of sample containing 10 ppm of U (VI) with
5 mM bicarbonate. This sample illustrates a large concentration of live
Table 1. Adhesion Forces for Arthrobacter sp. G968
*Data was obtained from the 2010 Year End Report and recent publications
(Katsenovich et al. 2012a, Katsenovich et al. 2012b)
Figure 4. 10 ppm of U (VI) and 5 mM of bicarbonate. The profile
heights: 110-180 nm.
Live/Dead analysis shows that despite the concentration of uranium and bicarbonate present in the solution, each sample
exhibited a ratio of live cells greater than 95%.
Performing a cell viability assessment via culture plates, results demonstrated that although the bacterial cells established intact
cytoplasmic membranes, resulting in viable cells for live/dead analysis, the cells that are exposed to uranium with no bicarbonate
experienced a viable but nonculturable state, that is, experienced low levels of colonies when plated.
Force spectroscopy results demonstrate that as uranium is added to the media, the adhesion force parameter decreases.
Furthermore, the height provided from profile plots reveal that samples containing bicarbonate have a higher profile height,
resulting in a much smoother surface. Thus, samples exposed to uranium with no bicarbonate are mostly viable, but are not alive.
In contrast, samples containing bicarbonate have a reduced height and small cellular size but are alive and have acclimated to
withstand uranium toxicity.
When calculating the viability of cells for each sample, it
has been found that there is not much difference between
the varying concentration of uranium and bicarbonate.
Each sample exhibited a ratio of live cells greater than
95% and when making a comparison between the sample
containing 10 ppm of U (VI) with and without
bicarbonate, it is apparent that the sample containing
bicarbonate contains a higher ratio of live cells.
Dr. Yelena Katsenovich (ARC-FIU)
Dr. Leonel Lagos (ARC-FIU)
Funds provided by DOE DE-EM0000598 grant
DOE-FIU Science and Technology Workforce
Development Program