Natural amino acids as potential chelators for soil remediation
. ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH 2020
The soils contaminated by toxic metals are often remediated using EDTA and similar non-biodegradable chelators. Most chelators are in fact synthetic amino acid derivatives, whereas natural proteinogenic amino acids (PAAs) have not been systematically explored as remediation agents, despite their well-known metal chelating abilities and environmental benefits. Our study represents a comprehensive research exploring 16 structurally and functionally different PAAs as potential remediating agents, applied to 3 different heavy metal-contaminated samples. The study was mostly focused on extracting Cd, Cu, Ni, and Zn. The reaction parameters were screened and optimized. It was found that the efficiencies of extracting Cu, Ni, and Zn by Threonine, Aspartic acid and Histidine were comparable to those by EDTA, whereas non-polar side chain-containing PAAs demonstrated consistently lower PTM extraction rates compared to other PAAs. The sulfur-containing Cysteine appeared to be efficient to extract Cd (to some extent), Ni and Zn, but not Cu, due to chemical reasons. The structure-functional correlations were identified, described, and found to be independent on the specific samples. Possible molecular mechanisms of metal extraction from soils by PAAs are discussed. In contrast to EDTA, the soil-essential elements are almost not extracted by PAAs. This important feature of the PAAs, along with their availability, observed selectivity, competitive efficiency, non-toxicity and even fertilizing properties, make them particularly soil-friendly, and thus, potentially applicable chelators in certain remediation processes.