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Genes 2018, 9(2), 116; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes9020116

In a quest for engineering acidophiles for biomining applications: challenges and opportunities

1
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Floreat WA 6014, Australia
2
Laboratory of Chemistry and Bioengineering, Tampere University of Technology (TUT), 33101 Tampere, Finland
3
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Montana State University (MSU), Bozeman, MT 59717, USA
4
School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 January 2018 / Revised: 16 February 2018 / Accepted: 16 February 2018 / Published: 21 February 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetics and Genomics of Extremophiles)
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Abstract

Biomining with acidophilic microorganisms has been used at commercial scale for the extraction of metals from various sulfide ores. With metal demand and energy prices on the rise and the concurrent decline in quality and availability of mineral resources, there is an increasing interest in applying biomining technology, in particular for leaching metals from low grade minerals and wastes. However, bioprocessing is often hampered by the presence of inhibitory compounds that originate from complex ores. Synthetic biology could provide tools to improve the tolerance of biomining microbes to various stress factors that are present in biomining environments, which would ultimately increase bioleaching efficiency. This paper reviews the state-of-the-art tools to genetically modify acidophilic biomining microorganisms and the limitations of these tools. The first part of this review discusses resilience pathways that can be engineered in acidophiles to enhance their robustness and tolerance in harsh environments that prevail in bioleaching. The second part of the paper reviews the efforts that have been carried out towards engineering robust microorganisms and developing metabolic modelling tools. Novel synthetic biology tools have the potential to transform the biomining industry and facilitate the extraction of value from ores and wastes that cannot be processed with existing biomining microorganisms. View Full-Text
Keywords: acidophile, bioleaching, biohydrometallurgy, biomining, halophile, metal, microorganism, resistance, tolerance, synthetic biology acidophile, bioleaching, biohydrometallurgy, biomining, halophile, metal, microorganism, resistance, tolerance, synthetic biology
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Gumulya, Y.; Boxall, N.J.; Khaleque, H.N.; Santala, V.; Carlson, R.P.; Kaksonen, A.H. In a quest for engineering acidophiles for biomining applications: challenges and opportunities. Genes 2018, 9, 116.

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