Golden Ticket

There’s gold in them there … bacteria?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

When gold and copper are surrounded by certain other chemicals, they’re toxic to the environment. This can hurt the soil, and, in turn, the plants and animals living there. But Nature has a fix! There’s a bacteria that can make both of them safer. HOW?! 

Lucy Bütof at Martin Luther University in Germany and team suspected an enzyme, or chemical stimulant, called CopA. They “fed” the CopA enzyme copper, gold, and a mix of both. The researchers then studied the chemical reactions through a microscope. 

Results? CopA needs BOTH metals to get the job done! It uses copper to make energy and then spits the gold nugget out. But don’t eye that mansion on the hill just yet. That gold nugget is a thousand times smaller than a human hair!

The researchers hope CopA can balance the dangerous forms of metal in the soil. This would help local plants and animals! 

Bacteria to save the day – that’s worth its weight in GOLD!

Bütof, L., Wiesemann, N., Herzberg, M., Altzschner, M., Holleitner, A., Reith, F., Nies, D. H. Synergistic gold–copper detoxification at the core of gold biomineralisation in Cupriavidus metallidurans Metallomics,10, 2, 278–286. (2018).