Trametes versicolor and Pleurotus sajur-caju mycelia immobilized in Ca-alginate beads were used for the removal of mercuric ions from aqueous solutions. The sorption of Hg(II) ions by alginate beads and both immobilized live and heat-killed fungal mycelia of T versicolor and P. sajur-caju was studied in the concentration range of 0.150-3.00 mmol dm(-3). The biosorption of Hg(II) increased as the initial concentration of Hg(II) ions increased in the medium. Maximum biosorption capacities for plain alginate beads were 0.144+/-0.005 mmol Hg(II)/g; for immobilized live and heat-killed fungal mycelia of T versicolor were 0.171+/-0.007 mmol Hg(II)/g and 0.383+/-0.012 mmol Hg(II)/g respectively; whereas for live and heat-killed P. sajur-caju, the values were 0.450+/-0.014 mmol Hg(II)/g and 0.660+/-0.019 mmol Hg(II)/g respectively. Biosorption equilibrium was established in about 1 h and the equilibrium adsorption was well described by Langmuir and Freundlich adsorption isotherms. Between 15 and 45 degreesC the biosorption capacity was not affected and maximum adsorption was observed between pH 4.0 and 6.0. The alginate-fungus beads could be regenerated using 10 mmol dm(-3) HCl solution, with up to 97% recovery. The biosorbents were reused in five biosorption-desorption cycles without a significant loss in biosorption capacity. Heat-killed T versicolor and P. sajur-caju removed 73% and 81% of the Hg(II) ions, respectively, from synthetic wastewater samples. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.