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The LANTANOPHOR project: Lanthanides (Ln) are critical raw materials and designated with a high supply risk by the European Commission. Their mining and purification have a considerable negative environmental impact and we urgently need sustainable and efficient recycling strategies for these elements. It was recently discovered that many bacteria use Ln for growth and utilize them in the active sites of enzymes (check out our recent publication on this topic!). The Ln-uptake mechanisms of these bacteria remain underexplored, however, the involvement of polydentate ligands (chelators) to bind lanthanides — lanthanophores (lanthanide carriers) — has recently been established. For the first time, practical applications of chelators that were specifically designed by nature to bind, recycle and separate the technologically-indispensable lanthanides are in reach.

Thus, the objective of LANTHANOPHOR is the identification and isolation of lanthanophores from the spent media of lanthanide-utilizing bacteria. The lanthanophore and related chelators will be evaluated for the use in Ln separation and recycling. The ERC team will further elucidate whether these ligands can be used in lanthanide bioremediation or for medical applications as chelators. The results of LANTHANOPHOR will advance the development of sustainable solutions and bioinspired applications that are urgently needed in the quest for new, environmentally friendly and faster Ln separation and recycling technologies. The unique combination of lanthanide biochemistry and coordination chemistry in this diverse team, along with our amazing collaborators opens unparalleled opportunities for discovery and characterisation of lanthanophores.

Current ERC Team in Munich: Lena Daumann (PI), Sophie Gutenthaler (PhD student, lanthanide coordination chemistry and chelators), Manh Tri Phi (PhD student, synthesis of chelators), Michael Mertens (PhD student, synthesis of chelators), Philippe de Bary (PhD student, lanthanide recycling and chelators), Helena Singer (PhD student, recycling and separation of lanthanides and actinides)

Selected ERC project related news (English + German):



Bakterien: Radioaktive Elemente ersetzen essenzielle Seltenerdmetalle

Bacteria: radioactive elements replace essential rare earth metals

Interview in the Spiegel: »Die Bakterien wachsen, wenn wir alte Magneten dazugeben«

Podcast: Recycling von Seltenen Erden Wenn Bakterien Metalle futtern

Publications associated to ERC Project:

  • Helena Singer, Robin Steudtner, Ignacio Sottorff, Björn Drobot, Arjan Pol, Huub J.M Op den Camp and Lena J. Daumann, Learning from Nature: Recovery of rare earth elements by the extremophilic bacterium Methylacidiphilum fumariolicum, accepted at Chem Comm. 2023, pioneering investigators issue,

  • Helena Singer, Robin Steudtner, Andreas S. Klein, Carolin Rulofs, Cathleen Zeymer, Björn Drobot, Arjan Pol, N. Cecilia Martinez-Gomez, Huub J. M. Op den Camp, Lena J. Daumann Minor Actinides Can Replace Essential Lanthanides in Bacterial Life, accepted as VIP paper at Angewandte Chemie Int.Ed. 2023

  • Alexa M Zytnick, Nathan Michael Good, Colin C Barber, Manh Tri Phi, Sophie M. Gutenthaler, Wenjun Zhang, Lena J. Daumann, Norma Cecilia Martinez-Gomez Identification of a biosynthetic gene cluster encoding a novel lanthanide chelator in Methylorubrum extorquens AM1, bioRxiv 2022

  • Sophie M. Gutenthaler, Satoru Tsushima, Robin Steudtner, Manuel Gailer, Anja Hoffmann-Röder, Björn Drobot*, Lena J. Daumann*, LanM Peptides – Unravelling the Binding Properties of the EFHand Loop Sequences Stripped from the Structural Corset, Inorg. Chem. Front., 2022,9, 4009-4021

  • H. Singer, B. Drobot, C. Zeymer, R. Steudtner*, L. J. Daumann* Americium preferred: Lanmodulin, a natural lanthanide-binding protein favors an actinide over lanthanides, Chem. Sci., 2021,12, 15581-15587