Iron Corrosion via Direct Metal-Microbe Electron Transfer.

TitleIron Corrosion via Direct Metal-Microbe Electron Transfer.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsTang H-Y, Holmes DE, Ueki T, Palacios PA, Lovley DR
Date Published2019 May 14
KeywordsAnaerobiosis, Corrosion, Cytochromes, Electron Transport, Formate Dehydrogenases, Geobacter, Iron, Oxidation-Reduction, Oxidoreductases, Transcriptome

The concept that anaerobic microorganisms can directly accept electrons from Fe(0) has been controversial because direct metal-microbe electron transfer has previously only been indirectly inferred. Fe(0) oxidation was studied with strain ACL, an autotrophic strain that was previously shown to grow with electrons derived from a graphite cathode as the sole electron donor. Strain ACL grew with Fe(0) as the sole electron donor and fumarate as the electron acceptor. However, it appeared that at least a portion of the electron transfer was via H produced nonenzymatically from the oxidation of Fe(0) to Fe(II). H, which accumulated in abiotic controls, was consumed during the growth of strain ACL, the cells were predominately planktonic, and genes for the uptake hydrogenase were highly expressed. Strain ACL was constructed to prevent growth on H or formate by deleting the genes for the uptake of hydrogenase and formate dehydrogenases from strain ACL. Strain ACL also grew with Fe(0) as the sole electron donor, but H accumulated in the culture, and cells heavily colonized Fe(0) surfaces with no visible planktonic growth. Transcriptomics suggested that the outer surface -type cytochromes OmcS and OmcZ were important during growth of strain ACL on Fe(0). Strain ACL did not grow on Fe(0) if the gene for either of these cytochromes was deleted. The specific attachment of strain ACL to Fe(0), coupled with requirements for known extracellular electrical contacts, suggest that direct metal-microbe electron transfer is the most likely option for Fe(0) serving as an electron donor. The anaerobic corrosion of iron structures is expensive to repair and can be a safety and environmental concern. It has been known for over 100 years that the presence of anaerobic respiratory microorganisms can accelerate iron corrosion. Multiple studies have suggested that there are sulfate reducers, methanogens, and acetogens that can directly accept electrons from Fe(0) to support sulfate or carbon dioxide reduction. However, all of the strains studied can also use H as an electron donor for growth, which is known to be abiotically produced from Fe(0). Furthermore, no proteins definitely shown to function as extracellular electrical contacts with Fe(0) were identified. The studies described here demonstrate that direct electron transfer from Fe(0) can support anaerobic respiration. They also map out a simple genetic approach to the study of iron corrosion mechanisms in other microorganisms. A better understanding of how microorganisms promote iron corrosion is expected to lead to the development of strategies that can help reduce adverse impacts from this process.

Alternate JournalmBio
PubMed ID31088920
PubMed Central IDPMC6520446