U.S. Department of Energy


Date of this Version



Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Vol. 66, No. 18, pp. 3247–3262, 2002


The potential for Mn oxides to modify the biogeochemical behavior of U during reduction by the subsurface bacterium Shewanella putrefaciens strain CN32 was investigated using synthetic Mn(III/IV) oxides (pyrolusite [β-MnO2], bixbyite [Mn2O3] and K+-birnessite [K4Mn14O27 • 8H2O]). In the absence of bacteria, pyrolusite and bixbyite oxidized biogenic uraninite (UO2[s]) to soluble U(VI) species, with bixbyite being the most rapid oxidant. The Mn(III/IV) oxides lowered the bioreduction rate of U(VI) relative to rates in their absence or in the presence of gibbsite (Al[OH]3) added as a non-redox-reactive surface. Evolved Mn(II) increased with increasing initial U(VI) concentration in the biotic experiments, indicating that valence cycling of U facilitated the reduction of Mn(III/IV). Despite an excess of the Mn oxide, 43 to 100% of the initial U was bioreduced after extended incubation. Analysis of thin sections of bacterial Mn oxide suspensions revealed that the reduced U resided in the periplasmic space of the bacterial cells. However, in the absence of Mn(III/IV) oxides, UO2(s) accumulated as copious fine-grained particles external to the cell. These results indicate that the presence of Mn(III/IV) oxides may impede the biological reduction of U(VI) in subsoils and sediments. However, the accumulation of U(IV) in the cell periplasm may physically protect reduced U from oxidation, promoting at least a temporal state of redox disequilibria.