Assessing the relative bioavailability of copper to fungi degrading treated wood

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Copper is ubiquitous as a biocide component in wood preservatives. Some fungi detoxify copper by immobilizing copper ions with oxalate, decreasing its physiological availability (bioavailability). Decreases in copper bioavailability may also occur during wood treatment. To date, however, copper retention in wood has been measured as overall weight-to-volume concentration without an estimate of its bioavailability and without assessment of its relative contribution to preservative efficacy. Here, we gauge the bioavailability of copper ions in treated wood by using oxalate to pre-treat wood prior to colonization by a moderately copper-tolerant fungus. Copper-treated wood was treated with a gradient of sodium oxalate concentrations, rinsed thoroughly, and exposed in soil-block jars to an isolate of Serpula himantioides. Wood treated with copper ethanolamine was extremely effective in preventing decay by S. himantioides, but toxicity could repeatedly be overcome above a threshold level of oxalate pretreatment. In agar plates, copper-treated wood stimulated oxalate production by S. himantioides, but levels were less than those needed (>10 mM) to overcome copper in soil-block jars. This capacity to overcome copper using an oxalate pretreatment was absent in commercially available samples treated with co-biocide(s). Results demonstrate a useful relative measure of copper bioavailability, with potential to be modified for specific quantification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-22
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Biodeterioration and Biodegradation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge funding from a McIntire Stennis Fund (Project MIN-12-074) and from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) at the University of Minnesota. We also acknowledge Dr. Shona Duncan and Mr. Adam Norcutt for their invaluable technical assistance during experimental setup and analysis.


  • Azole
  • Copper tolerance
  • Oxalate
  • Quaternary
  • Wood preservatives


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