Antimony (Sb) contamination released from mine tailings represents a global threat to natural ecosystems and human health. The geochemical conditions of Sb tailings, which are oligotrophic and replete in sulfur (S) and Sb, may promote the coupled metabolism of Sb and S. In this study, multiple lines of evidence indicate that a novel biogeochemical process, S oxidation coupled to Sb(V) reduction, is enzymatically mediated by Desulfurivibrio spp. The distribution of Desulfurivibrio covaried with S and Sb concentrations, showing a high relative abundance in Sb mine tailings but not in samples from surrounding sites (i.e., soils, paddies, and river sediments). Further, the metabolic potential to couple S oxidation to Sb(V) reduction, encoded by a non-canonical, oxidative sulfite reductase (dsr) and arsenate reductase (arrA) or antimonate reductase (anrA), respectively, was found to be common in Desulfurivibrio genomes retrieved from metal-contaminated sites in southern China. Elucidation of enzymatically-catalyzed S oxidation coupled to Sb(V) reduction expands the fundamental understanding of Sb biogeochemical cycling, which may be harnessed to improve remediation strategies for Sb mine tailings.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics