Immense volumes of radioactive wastes, which were generated during nuclear weapons production, were disposed of directly in the ground during the Cold War, a period when national security priorities often surmounted concerns over the environment. The bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans is the most radiation-resistant organism known and is currently being engineered for remediation of the toxic metal and organic components of these environmental wastes. Understanding the biotic potential of D. radiodurans and its global physiological integrity in nutritionally restricted radioactive environments is important in development of this organism for in situ bioremediation. We have previously shown that D. radiodurans can grow on rich medium in the presence of continuous radiation (6,000 rads/h) without lethality. In this study we developed a chemically defined minimal medium that can be used to analyze growth of this organism in the presence and in the absence of continuous radiation; whereas cell growth was not affected in the absence of radiation, cells did not grow and were killed in the presence of continuous radiation. Under nutrient-limiting conditions, DNA repair was found to be limited by the metabolic capabilities of D. radiodurans and not by any nutritionally induced defect in genetic repair. The results of our growth studies and analysis of the complete D. radiodurans genomic sequence support the hypothesis that there are several defects in D. radiodurans global metabolic regulation that limit carbon, nitrogen, and DNA metabolism. We identified key nutritional constituents that restore growth of D. radiodurans in nutritionally limiting radioactive environments.
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