April 26, 2002
Here, GNN highlights five papers about Geobacter species and their unusual metabolism related to the article Metal-eating microbe Geobacter metallireducens swims
Microorganisms that use insoluble Fe(iii) oxide as an electron acceptor can have an important function in the carbon and nutrient cycles of aquatic sediments and in the bioremediation of organic and metal contaminants in groundwater. Although Fe(iii) oxides are often abundant, Fe(iii)-reducing microbes are faced with the problem of how to access effectively an electron acceptor that can not diffuse to the cell. Fe(iii)-reducing microorganisms in the genus Shewanella have resolved this problem by releasing soluble quinones that can carry electrons from the cell surface to Fe(iii) oxide that is at a distance from the cell. Here we report that another Fe(iii)-reducer, Geobacter metallireducens, has an alternative strategy for accessing Fe(iii) oxides. Geobacter metallireducens specifically expresses flagella and pili only when grown on insoluble Fe(iii) or Mn(iv) oxide, and is chemotactic towards Fe(ii) and Mn(ii) under these conditions. These results suggest that G. metallireducens senses when soluble electron acceptors are depleted and then synthesizes the appropriate appendages to permit it to search for, and establish contact with, insoluble Fe(iii) or Mn(iv) oxide. This approach to the use of an insoluble electron acceptor may explain why Geobacter species predominate over other Fe(iii) oxide-reducing microorganisms in a wide variety of sedimentary environments.
Nature 2002 Apr 18;416(6882):767-9.
Energy in the form of electricity can be harvested from marine sediments by placing a graphite electrode (the anode) in the anoxic zone and connecting it to a graphite cathode in the overlying aerobic water. We report a specific enrichment of microorganisms of the family Geobacteraceae on energy-harvesting anodes, and we show that these microorganisms can conserve energy to support their grown by oxidizing organic compounds with an electrode serving as the sole electron acceptor. This finding not only provides a method for extracting energy from organic matter, but also suggests a strategy for promoting the bioremediation of organic contaminants in subsurface environments.
Science 2002 Jan 18;295(5554):483-5.
Members of the genus Geobacter are the dominant metal-reducing microorganisms in a variety of anaerobic subsurface environments and have been shown to be involved in the bioremediation of both organic and metal contaminants. To facilitate the study of the physiology of these organisms, a genetic system was developed for Geobacter sulfurreducens. The antibiotic sensitivity of this organism was characterized, and optimal conditions for plating it at high efficiency were established. A protocol for the introduction of foreign DNA into G. sulfurreducens by electroporation was also developed. Two classes of broad-host-range vectors, IncQ and pBBR1, were found to be capable of replication in G. sulfurreducens. In particular, the IncQ plasmid pCD342 was found to be a suitable expression vector for this organism. When the information and novel methods described above were utilized, the nifD gene of G. sulfurreducens was disrupted by the single-step gene replacement method. Insertional mutagenesis of this key gene in the nitrogen fixation pathway impaired the ability of G. sulfurreducens to grow in medium lacking a source of fixed nitrogen. Expression of the nifD gene in trans complemented this phenotype. This paper constitutes the first report of genetic manipulation of a member of the Geobacter genus.
Appl Environ Microbiol 2001 Jul;67(7):3180-7.
Recent studies on the diversity and ubiquity of Fe(III)-reducing organisms in different environments led to the isolation and identification of four new dissimilatory Fe(III)-reducers (strains H-2T, 172T, TACP-2T and TACP-5). All four isolates are non-motile, Gram-negative, freshwater, mesophilic, strict anaerobes with morphology identical to that of Geobacter metallireducens strain GS-15T. Analysis of the 16S rRNA sequences indicated that the new isolates belong to the genus Geobacter, in the delta-Proteobacteria. Significant differences in phenotypic characteristics, DNA-DNA homology and G+C content indicated that the four isolates represent three new species of the genus. The names Geobacter hydrogenophilus sp. nov. (strain H-2T), Geobacter chapellei sp. nov. (strain 172T) and Geobacter grbiciae sp. nov. (strains TACP-2T and TACP-5) are proposed. Geobacter hydrogenophilus and Geobacter chapellei were isolated from a petroleum-contaminated aquifer and a pristine, deep, subsurface aquifer, respectively. Geobacter grbiciae was isolated from aquatic sediments. All of the isolates can obtain energy for growth by coupling the oxidation of acetate to the reduction of Fe(III). The four isolates also coupled Fe(III) reduction to the oxidation of other simple, volatile fatty acids. In addition, Geobacter hydrogenophilus and Geobacter grbiciae were able to oxidize aromatic compounds such as benzoate, whilst Geobacter grbiciae was also able to use the monoaromatic hydrocarbon toluene.
Int J Syst Evol Microbiol 2001 Mar;51(Pt 2):581-8.
The dissimilatory Fe(III)-reducing bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens reduced and precipitated Tc(VII) by two mechanisms. Washed cell suspensions coupled the oxidation of hydrogen to enzymatic reduction of Tc(VII) to Tc(IV), leading to the precipitation of TcO(2) at the periphery of the cell. An indirect, Fe(II)-mediated mechanism was also identified. Acetate, although not utilized efficiently as an electron donor for direct cell-mediated reduction of technetium, supported the reduction of Fe(III), and the Fe(II) formed was able to transfer electrons abiotically to Tc(VII). Tc(VII) reduction was comparatively inefficient via this indirect mechanism when soluble Fe(III) citrate was supplied to the cultures but was enhanced in the presence of solid Fe(III) oxide. The rate of Tc(VII) reduction was optimal, however, when Fe(III) oxide reduction was stimulated by the addition of the humic analog and electron shuttleanthaquinone-2,6-disulfonate, leading to the rapid formation of the Fe(II)-bearing mineral magnetite. Under these conditions, Tc(VII) was reduced and precipitated abiotically on the nanocrystals of biogenic magnetite as TcO(2) and was removed from solution to concentrations below the limit of detection by scintillation counting. Cultures of Fe(III)-reducing bacteria enriched from radionuclide-contaminated sediment using Fe(III) oxide as an electron acceptor in the presence of 25 microM Tc(VII) contained a single Geobacter sp. detected by 16S ribosomal DNA analysis and were also able to reduce and precipitate the radionuclide via biogenic magnetite. Fe(III) reduction was stimulated in aquifer material, resulting in the formation of Fe(II)-containing minerals that were able to reduce and precipitate Tc(VII). These results suggest that Fe(III)-reducing bacteria may play an important role in immobilizing technetium in sediments via direct and indirect mechanisms.
Appl Environ Microbiol 2000 Sep;66(9):3743-9.
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