Bacterial tolerance strategies against lead toxicity and their relevance in bioremediation application
Among heavy metals, lead (Pb) is a non-essential metal having a higher toxicity and without any crucial known biological functions. Being widespread, non-biodegradable and persistent in every sphere of soil, air and water, Pb is responsible for severe health and environmental issues, which need appropriate remediation measures. However, microbes inhabiting Pb-contaminated area are found to have evolved distinctive mechanisms to successfully thrive in the Pb-contaminated environment without exhibiting any negative effects on their growth and metabolism. The defensive strategies used by bacteria to ameliorate the toxic effects of lead comprise biosorption, efflux, production of metal chelators like siderophores and metallothioneins and synthesis of exopolysaccharides, extracellular sequestration and intracellular bioaccumulation. Lead remediation technologies by employing microbes may appear as potential advantageous alternatives to the conventional physical and chemical means due to specificity, suitability for applying in situ condition and feasibility to upgrade by genetic engineering. Developing strategies by designing transgenic bacterial strain having specific metal binding properties and metal chelating proteins or higher metal adsorption ability and using bacterial activity such as incorporating plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria for improved Pb resistance, exopolysaccharide and siderophores and metallothionein-mediated immobilization may prove highly effective for formulating bioremediation vis-a-vis phytoremediation strategies.