Sulfate-reducing Bacteria and Mercury Methylation in the Water Column of the Lake 658 of the Experimental Lake Area

Darío Achá Cordero, Holger Hintelmann, Cecilia A. Pabón

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26 Scopus citations


Sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) appear to be the main mediators of mercury methylation in sediments, which are deemed to be major sites of methylmercury (MMHg) production. However, recent studies have also found significant MMHg formation in the water column of lakes across North America. To investigate the potential involvement of SRB in mercury methylation in the water column of a stratified oligotrophic lake, two of the main families of SRB (Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfovibrionaceae) were quantified by Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction of the 16S rRNA gene. MMHg production was measured applying a stable isotope technique using 198HgCl. Methylation assays were conducted at different water depths and under stimulation with lactate, acetate or propionate and inhibition with molybdate. Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfovibrionaceae16S rRNA gene copies in control samples accounted for 0.05% to 33% and <0.01% to 1.12% of the total bacterial 16S rRNA, respectively. MMHg formation was as high as 0.3 ng L-1 day-1 and largest in lactate amended samples. Strain isolation was only achieved in lactate amended media with all isolated strains being SRB belonging to the Desulfovibrio genus according to their 16S rRNA gene sequence. Isolated strains methylated between 0.06 and 0.2% of 198HgCl per day. Acetate and propionate did not stimulate mercury methylation as much as lactate. Two strains were identified as Desulfovibrio sp. 12ML1 (FJ865472) and Desulfovibrio sp. 12ML3 (FJ865473), based on partial sequences of their 16S rRNA and DSR gene. Methylation assays and bacteria characterization suggest that Desulfovibrionaceae is an important mercury methylators in Lake 658. Supplemental materials are available for this article. Go to the publisher's online edition of Geomicrobiology Journal to view the free supplemental file.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-674
Number of pages8
JournalGeomicrobiology Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by an NSERC Strategic Research Grant to Holger Hintelmann, and an NSERC Discovery Grant to Janet Yee. We thank Ken A. Sandilands for his collaboration in the field and the METAALICUS project for the sulfate data. We thank Mark Dzurko for providing the control and C. Gilmoure for providing the original strains. We also thank Joy Zhu, Brian Dimock, Dephine Foucher and Olivier Clarisse for guidance in mercury analysis and general lab assistance.


  • Desulfovibrionaceae
  • mercury
  • mercury methylation
  • methylmercury
  • sulfate-reducing bacteria
  • water column


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