Biotransformation of Scheelite CaWO4 by the Extreme Thermoacidophile Metallosphaera sedula: Tungsten–Microbial Interface

Amir Blazevic, Mihaela Albu, Stefan Mitsche, Simon Rittmann, Gerlinde Habler, Tetyana Milojevic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The tungsten–microbial interactions and microbial bioprocessing of tungsten ores, which are still underexplored, are the focus of the current study. Here we show that the biotransformation of tungsten mineral scheelite performed by the extreme thermoacidophile Metallosphaera sedula leads to the breakage of scheelite structure and subsequent tungsten solubilization. Total soluble tungsten is significantly higher in cultures containing M. sedula grown on scheelite than the abiotic control, indicating active bioleaching. Advanced analytical electron microscopy was used in order to achieve nanoscale resolution ultrastructural studies of M. sedula grown on tungsten bearing scheelite. In particular, we describe that M. sedula mediated the biotransformation of scheelite, which was accompanied by the release of tungsten into solution and tungsten biomineralization of the cell surface. Furthermore, we observed intracellular incorporation of redox heterogenous Mn- and Fe-containing nano-clusters. Our results highlight unique metallophilic life in hostile environments extending the knowledge of tungsten biogeochemistry. Based on these findings biohydrometallurgical processing of tungsten ores can be further explored. Importantly, biogenic tungsten carbide-like nanolayers described herein are potential targets for developing nanomaterial biotechnology.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1492
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science

Fields of Expertise

  • Advanced Materials Science

Treatment code (Nähere Zuordnung)

  • Basic - Fundamental (Grundlagenforschung)

Cite this