Tebo Research Group | Laboratory for Molecular Geomicrobiology

Metals and Microbestebo

Whether in the global environment or inside the cell, metals, and the redox reactions they undergo, have profound effects. Metal catalysts control biogeochemical cycles; metals can be intractable pollutants; and metal minerals can capture and transport many other elements. 

Microorganisms have a rich relationship with metals. Because of their unparalleled physiological virtuosity, microbes can interact with and transform metals in many ways. In some cases, microbial activities dominate the cycling of metals, as in the case of manganese. In others, such as iron, they augment non-biological transformations. The overarching subject of research in the Tebo lab is on the molecular mechanisms of microbial metal transformations with the aim of gaining a better understanding of environmental processes.

Bacteria transform metals for purposes both obvious and mysterious. Bacteria dissolve and change volcanic basalts as the basalts emerge from volcanoes and mid-ocean ridges. Tebo lab research on the role of marine microbes in the weathering of volcanic glasses is underway at several submarine volcanoes.[link]

Some bacteria oxidize metals; they can harvest electrons to make ATP and support their growth, or create strongly oxidizing species to break down organic molecules for food. Others can coat themselves with metal oxide minerals to protect themselves. The Tebo lab studies bacterial manganese oxidation, from molecular mechanisms to environmental manganese cycling. [link]

Bacteria can transform toxic metals to innocuous forms, behavior which can be used to clean up pollution. On the other hand, they can change toxic metals to more dangerous forms, and thus we need to understand and predict their activity. Some bacteria can reduce metals, using oxidized forms of metals the way the human body uses oxygen, as an electron acceptor to support growth. Bacterial heavy metal reduction, and its impact on mobility of metal contaminants, is another focus of the Tebo lab research. [link]


Brad Tebo Quick Links: Faculty Webpage Curriculum Vitae


Mailing Address:
Dr.Brad Tebo, Division Head
Oregon Health & Science University
Institute of Environmental Health
Mail Code HRC3
3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road
Portland, OR 97239-3098


Office: 503-346-3438
Laboratory: 503-346-3434
Location: OHSU, Richard Jones Hall, Room RJH 3681B