Solubilization of natural gypsum (CaSO4.2H(2)O) and the formation of calcium oxalate by Aspergillus niger and Serpula himantioides

Mohammed M. Gharieb, Jacqueline A. Sayer, Geoffrey M. Gadd

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    The natural dihydrate form of calcium sulphate, CaSO4.2H(2)O (gypsum), particularly found in gypsiferous soils and in certain building constructions, was found to be effectively solubilized by both Aspergillus niger and Serpula himantioides. When the fungi were grown on malt extract agar (MEA) medium amended with up to 1% (w/v) of gypsum, solubilization activity was evident by the appearance of a clear zone (haol) around and/or under the growing colonies. The haloes were found subsequently to enclose concentric rings of newly formed crystalline precipitate. The pH profile of the medium underneath the growing mycelium of A. niger was not affected by the presence of gypsum, while the S. himantioides pH profile displayed a slight reduction in pH values when grown on gypsum-containing media compared with the control. Electron microscopy and X-ray microanalysis of the crystals revealed the formation of calcium-containing crystals with the characteristic morphology typical of different forms of calcium oxalate. The complexing activity of fungal-produced organic acids with calcium was suggested to be the prevalent mechanism of solubilization with the production of oxalic acid resulting in precipitation of oxalate. Such activity resulted in the release of available sulphate which increased over the incubation period. The concentrations of sulphate released from 0.5% (w/v) gypsum after growth of A. niger and S. himantioides for 8 d were 14.7+/-0.7 and 7.4+/-0.9 mu mol cm(-3) respectively. These results are discussed in the light of their relevance to land reclamation and plant nutrition, as well as the weathering of building materials containing gypsum.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)825-830
    Number of pages6
    JournalMycological Research
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 1998


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