Adsorption and intracellular uptake of mercuric mercury and methylmercury by methanotrophs and methylating bacteria

Lijie Zhang, Christina S. Kang-Yun, Xia Lu, Jin Chang, Xujun Liang, Eric M. Pierce, Jeremy D. Semrau, Baohua Gu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The cell surface adsorption and intracellular uptake of mercuric mercury Hg(II) and methylmercury (MeHg) are important in determining the fate and transformation of Hg in the environment. However, current information is limited about their interactions with two important groups of microorganisms, i.e., methanotrophs and Hg(II)-methylating bacteria, in aquatic systems. This study investigated the adsorption and uptake dynamics of Hg(II) and MeHg by three strains of methanotrophs, Methylomonas sp. strain EFPC3, Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b, and Methylococcus capsulatus Bath, and two Hg(II)-methylating bacteria, Pseudodesulfovibrio mercurii ND132 and Geobacter sulfurreducens PCA. Distinctive behaviors of these microorganisms towards Hg(II) and MeHg adsorption and intracellular uptake were observed. The methanotrophs took up 55−80% of inorganic Hg(II) inside cells after 24 h incubation, lower than methylating bacteria (>90%). Approximately 80–95% of MeHg was rapidly taken up by all the tested methanotrophs within 24 h. In contrast, after the same time, G. sulfurreducens PCA adsorbed 70% but took up <20% of MeHg, while P. mercurii ND132 adsorbed <20% but took up negligible amounts of MeHg. These results suggest that microbial surface adsorption and intracellular uptake of Hg(II) and MeHg depend on the specific types of microbes and appear to be related to microbial physiology that requires further detailed investigation. Despite being incapable of methylating Hg(II), methanotrophs play important roles in immobilizing both Hg(II) and MeHg, potentially influencing their bioavailability and trophic transfer. Therefore, methanotrophs are not only important sinks for methane but also for Hg(II) and MeHg and can influence the global cycling of C and Hg.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number121790
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - Aug 15 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Bioavailability
  • Mercury
  • Methanotrophs
  • Microbial uptake
  • Species distribution


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