Genes that Methylate Mercury Identified
When mercury is released into the environment it can be transformed from inorganic mercury into the far more toxic form of methylmercury. Scientists have known for decades that bacteria are largely responsible for the methylation of mercury, but the precise mechanism by which this occurs has been a mystery. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory recently identified two genes that appear to allow certain strains of bacteria to methylate mercury. This exciting discovery may help lead to ways of limiting methylmercury production in the environment.