Isolation, identification and characterization of highly tellurite-resistant, tellurite-reducing bacteria from Antarctica

Felipe A. Arenas, Benoit Pugin, Nicole A. Henríquez, Mauricio A. Arenas-Salinas, Waldo A. Díaz-Vásquez, María F. Pozo, Claudia M. Muñoz, Thomas G. Chasteen, José M. Pérez-Donoso, Claudio C. Vásquez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


The tellurium oxyanion, tellurite, is extremely noxious to most living organisms. Its toxicity has been mainly related to the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) as well as to an unbalancing of the thiol:redox buffering system. Nevertheless, a few bacteria are capable of thriving at high tellurite concentrations. One mechanism of resistance is the enzymatic and non-enzymatic reduction of tellurite to the less toxic elemental tellurium. This reduction generates nano- to micrometric tellurium crystals that display different shapes and sizes.To date, a very limited number of highly tellurite-resistant and tellurite-reducing bacterial species are available from international culture collections. In this work, we decided to look for tellurite-reducing bacteria from an extreme environment, Antarctica. This environment exhibits a combination of several extreme factors such as high UV-radiation and desiccation and freezing conditions that impact directly on the local biodiversity. Since, as does, all these factors induce ROS formation, we hypothesized that Antarctic bacteria could also exhibit tellurite-resistance. In this context, we isolated 123 tellurite-resistant bacteria, and characterized six new tellurite-resistant and tellurite-reducing bacterial strains from samples collected in Antarctica. These strains were identified according to their 16S rRNA gene sequence as Staphylococcus hameolyticus, Staphylococcus sciuri, Acinetobacter haemolyticus, Pseudomonas lini, and two strains of Psychrobacter immobilis.The isolates display tellurite-resistance about 35- to 500-fold higher than Escherichia coli (Te-sensitive organism), and a high level of tellurite reduction which might be interesting for an application in the field of bioremediation or nanoparticle biosynthesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-52
Number of pages13
JournalPolar Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • Antarctic strains
  • Metalloids
  • Tellurite reduction
  • Tellurite resistance
  • Tellurium nanostructures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Isolation, identification and characterization of highly tellurite-resistant, tellurite-reducing bacteria from Antarctica'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this