The Bacteria that Dropped the Golden Deuce

October 18, 2012

Eva Gusnowski

Cupriavidus metallidurans (strain CH34) is the golden boy of the bacterial world.

First isolated in 1976 at a metal processing facility, C. metallidurans is involved in the production of gold nuggets. Although this might produce a “so what?” response from many people, this finding is actually very interesting because the production of gold was not thought to involve biological reactions; rather, it was believed to only require abiotic reactions.


C. metallidurans

This bacteria capable of withstanding high concentrations of heavy metal that would be toxic to other species (making it an incredible research model organism), and it is also capable of producing gold. The bacteria are able to achieve this because the cells take in toxic compounds such as liquid gold (III) tetrachloride and induce oxidative stress mechanisms to prevent cell death. The result is the production metallic gold that is essentially pure (24 carats) and is therefore inert. Win-win if you ask me.

                                         "The Great Work of the Metal Lover"

Recently Cupriavidus metallidurans was used as part of an art installation project, where an artist and a researcher from the University of Michigan used the bacterium to produce gold nuggets on stage. Adam Brown and Kazem Kashefi worked together to research the bacterium and exploited its capabilities in “The Great Work of the Metal Lover” via a process they call “neo-alchemy.” This art-science combo uses a portable laboratory to wow audiences with the amazing capabilities of these little gold factories, and looks pretty spiffy to boot.

At the current price of gold, maybe I’ll get some of these little King Midas’s and pay my way through the rest of school. Seems legit.



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