Fungal degradation of calcium-, lead- and silicon-bearing minerals


Adeyemi AO, Gadd GM.
Biometals. 2005 Jun;18(3):269-81.


The aim of this study was to examine nutritional influence on the ability of selected filamentous fungi to mediate biogenic weathering of the minerals, apatite, galena and obsidian in order to provide further understanding of the roles of fungi as biogeochemical agents, particularly in relation to the cycling of metals and associated elements found in minerals. The impact of three organic acid producing fungi (Aspergillus niger, Serpula himantioides and Trametes versicolor) on apatite, galena and obsidian was examined in the absence and presence of a carbon and energy source (glucose). Manifestation of fungal weathering included corrosion of mineral surfaces, modification of the mineral substrate through transformation into secondary minerals (i.e. crystal formation) and hyphal penetration of the mineral substrate. Physicochemical interactions of fungal metabolites, e.g. H+ and organic acids, with the minerals are thought to be the primary driving forces responsible. All experimental fungi were capable of mineral surface colonization in the absence and presence of glucose but corrosion of the mineral surface and secondary mineral formation were affected by glucose availability. Only S. himantioides and T. versicolor were able to corrode apatite in the absence of glucose but none of the fungi were capable of doing so with the other minerals. In addition, crystal formation with galena was entirely dependent on the availability of glucose. Penetration of the mineral substrates by fungal hyphae occurred but this did not follow any particular pattern. Although the presence of glucose in the media appeared to influence positively the mineral penetrating abilities of the fungi, the results obtained also showed that some geochemical change(s) might occur under nutrient-limited conditions. It was, however, unclear whether the hyphae actively penetrated the minerals or were growing into pre-existing pores or cracks.