The present study explored the ability of the yeast Rhodotorula mucilaginosa RCL-11 to adapt to increasing Cu(II) concentrations, measuring oxidative stress through superoxide dismutase and catalase activity in two parallel sequential batch assays. One assay was performed in Erlenmeyer flasks without aeration and a second in a fermentor in which the dissolved oxygen was maintained at 30% saturation. Both assays were carried out by increasing Cu(II) concentrations in five sequential steps: 0; 0.1; 0.2; 0.5 and 1 mM. Each assay was incubated at 30°C, 250 rpm and pH 5.5. While growth parameters of R. mucilaginosa RCL-11 decreased 90–95% with increasing Cu(II) concentration in the culture medium, the oxidative stress level increased from 30 to 55% in both assays. Cells grown under controlled oxygen conditions showed 30% more copper bioaccumulation and 10% glucose consumption when compared with cells grown without aeration. SOD activity was higher under controlled than whitout areation, whereas CAT activity was similar under both test conditions. Cu(II) bioaccumulation by R. mucilaginosa RCL-11 and a possible increase in this capacity by adaptation of the strain under controlled aeration represent a potential valuable tool for treatment of effluents or water bioremediation with high copper contents.

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