Journal article

Computer simulation of uranyl uptake by the rough lipopolysaccharide membrane of pseudomonas aeruginosa

Heavy metal environmental contaminants cannot be destroyed but require containment, preferably in concentrated form, in a solid or immobile form for recycling or final disposal. Microorganisms are able to take up and deposit high levels of contaminant metals, including radioactive metals such as uranium and plutonium, into their cell wall. Consequently, these microbial systems are of great interest as the basis for potential environmental bioremediation technologies. The outer membranes of Gram-negative microbes are highly nonsymmetric and exhibit a significant electrostatic potential gradient across the membrane. This gradient has a significant effect on the uptake and transport of charged and dipolar compounds. However, the effectiveness of microbial systems for environmental remediation will depend strongly on specific properties that determine the uptake of targeted contaminants by a particular cell wall. To aid in the design of microbial remediation technologies, knowledge of the factors that determine the affinity of a particular bacterial outer membrane for the most common ionic species found in contaminated soils and groundwater is of great importance. Using our previously developed model for the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) membrane of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, this work presents the potentials of mean force as the estimate of the free energy profile for uptake of sodium, calcium, chloride, uranyl ions, and a water molecule by the bacterial LPS membrane. A compatible classical parameter set for uranyl has been developed and validated. Results show that the uptake of uranyl is energetically a favorable process relative to the other ions studied. At neutral pH, this nuclide is shown to be retained on the surface of the LPS membrane through chelation with the carboxyl and hydroxyl groups located in the outer core.


Related material