Using microorganisms to remove waste and/or neutralize pollutants from contaminated water is attracting much attention due to the environmentally friendly nature of this methodology. However, cell recovery remains a bottleneck and a considerable challenge for the development of this process. Magnetotactic bacteria are a unique group of organisms that can be manipulated by an external magnetic field due to the presence of biogenic magnetite crystals formed within their cells. In this study, we demonstrated an account of accumulation and precipitation of amorphous elemental selenium nanoparticles within magnetotactic bacteria alongside and independent of magnetite crystal biomineralization when grown in a medium containing selenium oxyanion (SeO3 2-). Quantitative analysis shows that magnetotactic bacteria accumulate the largest amount of target molecules (Se) per cell compared with any other previously reported nonferrous metal/metalloid. For example, 2.4 and 174 times more Se is accumulated than Te taken up into cells and Cd2+ adsorbed onto the cell surface, respectively. Crucially, the bacteria with high levels of Se accumulation were successfully recovered with an external magnetic field. The biomagnetic recovery and the effective accumulation of target elements demonstrate the potential for application in bioremediation of polluted water.
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