Copper Isotope Fractionation during Surface Adsorption and Intracellular Incorporation by Bacteria


Copper isotopes may prove to be a useful tool for investigating bacteria-metal interactions recorded in natural waters, soils, and rocks. However, experimental data which attempt to constrain Cu isotope fractionation in biologic systems are limited and unclear. In this study, we utilized Cu isotopes (δ65Cu) to investigate Cu-bacteria interactions, including surface adsorption and intracellular incorporation. Experiments were conducted with individual representative species of Gram-positive (Bacillus subtilis) and Gram-negative (Escherichia coli) bacteria, as well as with wild-type consortia of microorganisms from several natural environments. Ph-dependent adsorption experiments were conducted with live and dead cells over the pH range 2.5-6. Surface adsorption experiments of Cu onto live bacterial cells resulted in apparent separation factors (Δ65Cusolution-solid = δ65Cusolution - δ65Cusolid) ranging from +0.3‰ to +1.4‰ for B. subtilis and +0.2‰ to +2.6‰ for E. coli. However, because heat-killed bacterial cells did not exhibit this behavior, the preference of the lighter Cu isotope by the cells is probably not related to reversible surface adsorption, but instead is a metabolically-driven phenomenon. Adsorption experiments with heat-killed cells yielded apparent separation factors ranging from +0.3‰ to -0.69‰ which likely reflects fractionation from complexation with organic acid surface functional group sites. For intracellular incorporation experiments the lab strains and natural consortia preferentially incorporated the lighter Cu isotope with an apparent Δ65Cusolution-solid ranging from ~+1.0‰ to +4.4‰. Our results indicate that live bacterial cells preferentially sequester the lighter Cu isotope regardless of the experimental conditions. The fractionation mechanisms involved are likely related to active cellular transport and regulation, including the reduction of Cu(II) to Cu(I). Because similar intracellular Cu machinery is shared by fungi, plants, and higher organisms, the influence of biological processes on the δ65Cu of natural waters and soils is probably considerable.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

adsorption; bacterium; complexation; copper; experimental study; geochemistry; geomicrobiology; isotopic fractionation; metabolism; microbial activity; pH; reduction; separation; Bacillus subtilis; Bacteria (microorganisms); Escherichia coli; Fungi; Negibacteria; Posibacteria

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Article - Journal

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© 2011 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Feb 2011