Resistance mechanisms in Cupriavidus metallidurans

SCK•CEN Mentor

Mijnendonckx Kristel,, +32 (0)14 33 21 06

Expert group


SCK•CEN Co-mentor

Van Houdt Rob , , +32 (0)14 33 27 28


Cupriavidus metallidurans strains, which belong to the Burkholderiaceae family and are characterized by multiple metal resistances, have been mostly isolated from industrial sites linked to mining, metallurgic and chemical industries. These strains are often typified by their large arsenal of mobile genetic elements (plasmids, transposons, genomic islands) that carry determinants allowing the strains to specifically adapt to their environment. For example, C. metallidurans type strain CH34 carries many determinants for metal resistance on its megaplasmids pMOL28 and pMOL30. Interestingly, while they often thrive in oligotrophic niches like industrial sites but also water systems (such as drinking water systems and even spent nuclear fuel pools), Cupriavidus isolates are increasingly being recovered from medically-relevant sources.

Studies at SCK•CEN underscored the rapid evolution of C. metallidurans strains towards significantly increased metal resistance. Surprisingly, the canonical mechanisms did not always participate in this adaptive evolution. In contrast, uncharacterized systems or unidentified transcriptional networks were discovered.


In this project, these metal resistant mutants will be characterized more in detail. The genetic regulation, molecular characteristics and physiological impact of these novel mechanisms, with regard to their role in the response to metal stress will be studied. In addition, the cellular location of the observed metal nanoparticles will be determined and the chemical and crystallographic poperties will be investigated in detail.

The minimum diploma level of the candidate needs to be

A2: Upper secondary school (+7th year BSO)

The candidate needs to have a background in

Biology , Bio-engineering

Estimated duration

3 maanden