Growth in Toxic Environments



Modeling the growth of bacteria in toxic environments by cell count and proteomics.  Dr. Caguiat (Biology) and Drs. Yates and Smotzer (Math). 

The Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, TN processed uranium during World War II to make the first atomic bomb and lithium during the Cold War to make hydrogen bombs. These processes contaminated a nearby stream with mercury and other heavy metals. Two strains of heavy metal-resistant bacteria isolated from this stream, Stenotrophomas maltophilia Oak Ridge strain O2 (S. maltophilia O2) and Enterobacter sp. YSU, are able to grow in the presence of toxic levels of zinc, copper, mercury, gold, cadmium, lead, and selenium. This project will first define the growth characteristics of these bacteria in the presence of selenite, a toxic derivative of selenium. In the proteomic study, bacterial protein samples will be separated by two dimensional gel electrophoresis. The first dimension separates proteins by charge in a process called isoelectric focusing, while the second dimension separates proteins by size. By comparing gel profiles of cultures grown in the presence or absence of selenite, we hope to identify proteins that are involved in selenite-resistance. Mathematical analysis coupling selenite concentration, substrate availability and bacterial cell counts can be used to model the activity of these proteins and predict the selenite transport under a wide range of conditions.


MBURDepartment of Mathematics and StatisticsDepartment of Biological SciencesYoungstown State University

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