Metallosphaera sedula is a strain of single-celled microorganisms that thrive even under conditions of extreme heat and acidity. As part of their metabolism, these "extremophiles" produce enzymes that alter the state of metal-sulfur compounds, such as iron sulfide, present in their environment. The result is the elemental form of the metal – the same form that is useful for human applications.Edit Summary
"M. sedula genome contains genes related to autotrophic carbon fixation, metal tolerance, and adhesion...and a putative tetrathionate hydrolase, implicated in sulfur oxidation...facilitating release of valuable metals bound in metal sulfides." (Auernik et al. 2008:682).
"The fox gene cluster, two putative versions of Rus, and TetH appear to be factors distinguishing thermoacidophilic bioleachers from nonbioleachers." (Auernik et al. 2008:690).
"Biomining exploits acidophilic microorganisms to recover valuable metals (i.e., Cu and Au) from ores...in biohydrometallurgical processes" (Auernik et al. 2008:682).