Frontiers of Earth Science

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 160–169 | Cite as

Live microbial cells adsorb Mg2+ more effectively than lifeless organic matter

Research Article


The Mg2+ content is essential in determining different Mg-CaCO3 minerals. It has been demonstrated that both microbes and the organic matter secreted by microbes are capable of allocating Mg2+ and Ca2+ during the formation of Mg-CaCO3, yet detailed scenarios remain unclear. To investigate the mechanism that microbes and microbial organic matter potentially use to mediate the allocation of Mg2+ and Ca2+ in inoculating systems, microbial mats and four marine bacterial strains (Synechococcus elongatus, Staphylococcus sp., Bacillus sp., and Desulfovibrio vulgaris) were incubated in artificial seawater media with Mg/Ca ratios ranging from 0.5 to 10.0. At the end of the incubation, the morphology of the microbial mats and the elements adsorbed on them were analyzed using scanning electronic microscopy (SEM) and energy diffraction spectra (EDS), respectively. The content of Mg2+ and Ca2+ adsorbed by the extracellular polysaccharide substances (EPS) and cells of the bacterial strains were analyzed with atomic adsorption spectroscopy (AAS). The functional groups on the surface of the cells and EPS of S. elongatus were estimated using automatic potentiometric titration combined with a chemical equilibrium model. The results show that live microbial mats generally adsorb larger amounts of Mg2+ than Ca2+, while this rarely is the case for autoclaved microbial mats. A similar phenomenon was also observed for the bacterial strains. The living cells adsorb more Mg2+ than Ca2+, yet a reversed trend was observed for EPS. The functional group analysis indicates that the cell surface of S. elongatus contains more basic functional groups (87.24%), while the EPS has more acidic and neutral functional groups (83.08%). These features may be responsible for the different adsorption behavior of Mg2+ and Ca2+ by microbial cells and EPS. Our work confirms the differential Mg2+ and Ca2+ mediation by microbial cells and EPS, which may provide insight into the processes that microbes use to induce Mg-carbonate formation.


microbe adsorption magnesium calcium 


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We greatly thank Man Lu for her help with the titration work. This study was jointly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41130207 and 41502317), the Special Funds for Basic Scientific Research of Central Colleges, China University of Geosciences (Wuhan) (CUG120103), and the open research program from the State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental Biology (GBL21503).


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xuan Qiu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yanchen Yao
    • 2
  • Hongmei Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yong Duan
    • 2
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental GeologyChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  2. 2.School of Environmental StudiesChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina

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