Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

A universal surface complexation framework for modeling proton binding onto bacterial surfaces in geologic settings

January 1, 2005

Adsorption onto bacterial cell walls can significantly affect the speciation and mobility of aqueous metal cations in many geologic settings. However, a unified thermodynamic framework for describing bacterial adsorption reactions does not exist. This problem originates from the numerous approaches that have been chosen for modeling bacterial surface protonation reactions. In this study, we compile all currently available potentiometric titration datasets for individual bacterial species, bacterial consortia, and bacterial cell wall components. Using a consistent, four discrete site, non-electrostatic surface complexation model, we determine total functional group site densities for all suitable datasets, and present an averaged set of 'universal' thermodynamic proton binding and site density parameters for modeling bacterial adsorption reactions in geologic systems. Modeling results demonstrate that the total concentrations of proton-active functional group sites for the 36 bacterial species and consortia tested are remarkably similar, averaging 3.2 ?? 1.0 (1??) ?? 10-4 moles/wet gram. Examination of the uncertainties involved in the development of proton-binding modeling parameters suggests that ignoring factors such as bacterial species, ionic strength, temperature, and growth conditions introduces relatively small error compared to the unavoidable uncertainty associated with the determination of cell abundances in realistic geologic systems. Hence, we propose that reasonable estimates of the extent of bacterial cell wall deprotonation can be made using averaged thermodynamic modeling parameters from all of the experiments that are considered in this study, regardless of bacterial species used, ionic strength, temperature, or growth condition of the experiment. The average site densities for the four discrete sites are 1.1 ?? 0.7 ?? 10-4, 9.1 ?? 3.8 ?? 10-5, 5.3 ?? 2.1 ?? 10-5, and 6.6 ?? 3.0 ?? 10-5 moles/wet gram bacteria for the sites with pKa values of 3.1, 4.7, 6.6, and 9.0, respectively. It is our hope that this thermodynamic framework for modeling bacteria-proton binding reactions will also provide the basis for the development of an internally consistent set of bacteria-metal binding constants. 'Universal' constants for bacteria-metal binding reactions can then be used in conjunction with equilibrium constants for other important metal adsorption and complexation reactions to calculate the overall distribution of metals in realistic geologic systems.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2005
Title A universal surface complexation framework for modeling proton binding onto bacterial surfaces in geologic settings
DOI 10.2475/ajs.305.6-8.826
Authors D. Borrok, B.F. Turner, J.B. Fein
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title American Journal of Science
Index ID 70029477
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse