About this Research Topic
Living organisms produce minerals through a process called biomineralization, which is a key step in the biogeochemical cycles of the elements in nature. While in the case of animals and plants the formation of biominerals is well established and understood, the microbial biominerals await further investigation to reveal unknown functions. Due to their higher growth rates and amenability for biotechnological applications, microbes could help recover industrially-relevant biominerals from low-grade resources.
The synthesis of biominerals by microbes is sometimes tightly regulated at the molecular level (e.g. magnetosomes), while in many other instances this process appears to be less controlled (e.g. formation of biominerals associated with detoxification scenarios). Microbial biominerals could serve a function after biosynthesis, imparting an advantage (e.g. geomagnetic orientation for nutritional purposes – magnetotactic bacteria) to the microorgamisms that produced them, or can act as a short-term solution, potentially presenting microbes with a storage problem of a “bulky” cellular inclusion. In some cases, biominerals serve multiple functions for microbes (e.g. iron minerals as iron storage reserves and ecological functions related to orientation). In the recent years, more and more reports support the idea that the biomineralization process in microbes is still in need of clarification with regards to the unknown functions of microbial biominerals.
Apart from the fundamental knowledge related to unravelling new functions imparted by biominerals to microbes, their formation is relevant from an industrial and health-related point of view. Biominerals are important in various anthropogenic settings (e.g. formation of PbS minerals in the aging Pb water supply systems of numerous urban environments) or in decontaminating sites affected by contemporary and historical industrial metal pollution. From a circular economy perspective, the formation of biominerals in industrial effluents can be used as a recovery strategy of critical materials.
The present Research Topic on “Microbial biominerals – towards new functions and resource recovery” aims to assemble contributions from scientists working on geomicrobiology, biogeochemistry, environmental microbiology and microbial biotechnology. We encourage authors to contribute research articles that are interdisciplinary, including original research, methods, reviews and mini-reviews, as well as opinion articles. Broadly, we favour contributions covering the following areas of research:
- Unravelling new functions of biominerals in bacteria
- Elucidating novels aspects of the biomineralization process
- Molecular mechanisms of biomineralization and bio-reduction of metals/metalloids
- Role of biominerals in anthropogenic settings
- Use of biominerals in decontaminating environmental pollution associated with metals
- Recovery of biominerals with industrial relevance
Keywords: Biominerals, metals, microbes, environmental decontamination, circular economy
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.