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Canadian researchers discover bacterium that lays the golden egg

Published on Feb 4, 2013 6:10 AM
 

PARIS (AFP) - Among the more peculiar organisms that inhabit our Earth exists a bacterium that turns water-soluble gold into microscopic nuggets of solid gold, scientists said on Sunday.

Chemists have often pondered why the germ Delftia acidovorans is frequently found on the surface of tiny gold nuggets. Its presence led scientists to speculate it may be creating the particles from soluble gold - ions of gold that are dissolved in water.

But the puzzle was how D. acidovorans did this trick, as soluble gold is toxic. The answer, suggest researchers in Canada, lies in a molecule excreted by the microbe that both shields the organism and transforms the poisonous ions into particles.

"This finding is the first demonstration that a secreted metabolite can protect against toxic gold and cause gold biomineralisation," the process by which living organisms produce minerals, they wrote in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

 
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