Biomineralization of Sr by the cyanobacterium Pseudanabaena catenata under alkaline conditions

Lynn Foster, Katherine Morris, Adrian Cleary, Heath Bagshaw, David Sigee, Jon Pittman, Kejing Zhang, Gianni Vettese, Kurt Smith, Jonathan Lloyd

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A non-axenic culture of Pseudanabaena catenata, a close relative of the bloom-forming cyanobacterium found in the high pH First Generation Magnox Storage Pond at the Sellafield Nuclear Facility, was supplemented with 1 mM of SrCl 2, to determine its effect on the fate of Sr. The addition of 1 mM Sr to the P. catenata culture resulted in ∼16% reduction in the overall growth of the culture (OD 600nm) and a 21% reduction in the concentration of chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) compared to those without Sr. The fate of Sr was assessed using a multi-technique approach. Inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy showed that virtually all of the Sr was removed from solution, while extracellular biomineral precipitates were analyzed using transmission electron microscopy analysis, and were shown to contain Sr, Ca, and S using energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy analysis. In addition, intracellular P-containing electron-dense features, likely to be polyphosphate bodies, were associated with the P. catenata cells and contained Sr. Bulk analysis of the cultures by X-ray diffraction showed the presence of Ca-containing strontianite whilst Extended X-ray Absorption Fine Structure analysis showed the presence of strontium phosphate minerals. The presence of Sr associated with intracellular polyphosphate was unexpected, and contrasts with other model photosynthetic systems in the literature that have highlighted carbonate biominerals as the dominant sink for Sr. Understanding the fate of Sr with microorganisms associated with the Spent Nuclear Fuel Ponds (SNFPs) is crucial to understanding the fate of radioactive 90Sr in such extreme environments, and could also suggest a potential remediation strategy for treatment of 90Sr contaminated waters from Spent Nuclear Fuel Ponds SNFPs and in contaminated aquatic systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number556244
JournalFrontiers in Earth Science
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2020


  • Sr behaviour
  • cyanobacteria
  • extended X-ray absorption fine structure
  • first generation magnox storage pond
  • polyphosphate bodies
  • transmission electron microscopy


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