The use of genetic probes to detect microorganisms in biomining operations

James R. Yates, John H. Lobos, David S. Holmes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Microorganisms are currently used for the recovery of copper from mining dumps of low-grade ore. One of the most important microorganisms involved in copper-solubilization is Thiobacillus ferrooxidans, although many other microbial genera are also thought to be implicated. A mining dump poses some special problems for the industrial microbiologist because it represents a non-sterile and heterogeneous substrate. Consequently, to enhance our knowledge of the role of microorganisms in metal recovery we must identify the indigenous microorganisms and understand their respective contributions to the process. In addition, when a superior strain of microorganism is developed in the laboratory, by genetic engineering or by other means, we must have a method to evaluate the maintenance of such a strain in the mining dump. In this paper, we describe DNA homology studies, using dot blot and Southern blot analysis of hybridizations of both whole genomic DNA and cloned DNA sequences, to identify and enumerate several bioleaching microorganisms. We demonstrate that it is possible to identify different species of microorganisms and, in one case, to discriminate between different strains of a single species. It is also possible to identify and quantitate certain species in a mixed culture. DNA hybridization analysis has several advantages over the more conventional bacteriological methods of identification, especially in a complex bioleaching situation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-135
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Industrial Microbiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1986


  • Bioleaching
  • Genetic probes
  • Strain differentiation and identification
  • Thiobacillus ferrooxidans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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