A fifth of the United States’ electricity is generated from nuclear power, which can also be used for medical procedures and other applications. The radioactive waste generated by nuclear reactors, hospitals and universities need to be disposed of in specially selected sites.
Deinococcus bacteria have the capacity to add electrons to a variety of metals, including uranium, chromium, mercury, technetium, iron and manganese. Due to this unique characteristic, this group of extremely radiation-resistant bacteria has been considered as a prospective candidate to help clean up radioactive waste sites. However, many Deinococcus bacteria require oxygen, which is a problem considering most waste environments are anaerobic.
For example, Deinococcus radiodurans is an extremophilic bacterium, one of the most radioresistant organisms known. It can survive cold, dehydration, vacuum and acid, and is therefore known as a polyextremophile, but it still cannot survive in anaerobic conditions.
One aerobic member of the Deinococcus family is D. grandis, which bacterium has limited practical use in contaminant sites. Recent findings, however, confirm that D. grandis can grow exceptionally well under certain anaerobic conditions. Therefore, sequencing the genome of D. grandis could provide information about one of the few practical candidates for radioactive site cleaning.
Principal Investigators: Michael Daly, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
Program: CSP 2010