Media used to determine the MICs of heavy metals for bacteria are unreliable because organic components in the media bind or chelate most of the metal being studied. To define specific metal activity in media and to maintain metal activity at a constant level, HEPES-MES [N-2-hydroxyethylpiperazine-N′ -2-ethanesulfonic acid−2-(N-morpholine)ethanesulfonic acid] salts medium with arabinose medium was modified, and the modified medium was used to examine the MIC of cadmium for Rhizobium fredii USDA 201. Arabinose-HEPES-MES was modified by addition of the chelator nitrilotriacetate to buffer the supply of free Cd2+ ion to maintain a constant Cd activity and by the use of only MES to buffer pH (buffered arabinose-MES medium [BAM]). Ca and Mg were supplied at the normal levels for soil solutions, and other trace elements were supplied at the levels required for normal growth of plants. The concentration of free Cd2+ ion was calculated by using the computer program GEOCHEM-PC with a corrected data base. The Cd MIC in BAM was 14.0 μM, while that in a tryptone-yeast extract medium was 107 μM. The results indicate that substantial free Cd2+ is removed from solution in most standard media, resulting in falsely high MICs. The new BAM medium allows for the precise determination of MICs, thus avoiding the uncertainties associated with other media
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