Happy together: microbial communities that hook up to swap electrons.

TitleHappy together: microbial communities that hook up to swap electrons.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsLovley DR
JournalISME J
Date Published2017 Feb
KeywordsArchaea, Bacteria, Electron Transport, Methane, Microbial Consortia, Microbial Interactions, Models, Biological, Oxidation-Reduction

The discovery of direct interspecies electron transfer (DIET) and cable bacteria has demonstrated that microbial cells can exchange electrons over long distances (μm-cm) through electrical connections. For example, in the presence of cable bacteria electrons are rapidly transported over centimeter distances, coupling the oxidation of reduced sulfur compounds in anoxic sediments to oxygen reduction in overlying surficial sediments. Bacteria and archaea wired for DIET are found in anaerobic methane-producing and methane-consuming communities. Electrical connections between gut microbes and host cells have also been proposed. Iterative environmental and defined culture studies on methanogenic communities revealed the importance of electrically conductive pili and c-type cytochromes in natural electrical grids, and demonstrated that conductive carbon materials and magnetite can substitute for these biological connectors to facilitate DIET. This understanding has led to strategies to enhance and stabilize anaerobic digestion. Key unknowns warranting further investigation include elucidation of the archaeal electrical connections facilitating DIET-based methane production and consumption; and the mechanisms for long-range electron transfer through cable bacteria. A better understanding of mechanisms for cell-to-cell electron transfer could facilitate the hunt for additional electrically connected microbial communities with omics approaches and could advance spin-off applications such as the development of sustainable bioelectronics materials and bioelectrochemical technologies.

Alternate JournalISME J
PubMed ID27801905
PubMed Central IDPMC5270577