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J Bacteriol. 2010 Jan;192(2):467-74. doi: 10.1128/JB.00925-09. Epub 2009 Nov 6.

The Mtr respiratory pathway is essential for reducing flavins and electrodes in Shewanella oneidensis.

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  • 1BioTechnology Institute, University of Minnesota, Paul, MN 55108, USA.


The Mtr respiratory pathway of Shewanella oneidensis strain MR-1 is required to effectively respire both soluble and insoluble forms of oxidized iron. Flavins (riboflavin and flavin mononucleotide) recently have been shown to be excreted by MR-1 and facilitate the reduction of insoluble substrates. Other Shewanella species tested accumulated flavins in supernatants to an extent similar to that of MR-1, suggesting that flavin secretion is a general trait of the species. External flavins have been proposed to act as both a soluble electron shuttle and a metal chelator; however, at biologically relevant concentrations, our results suggest that external flavins primarily act as electron shuttles for MR-1. Using deletion mutants lacking various Mtr-associated proteins, we demonstrate that the Mtr extracellular respiratory pathway is essential for the reduction of flavins and that decaheme cytochromes found on the outer surface of the cell (MtrC and OmcA) are required for the majority of this activity. Given the involvement of external flavins in the reduction of electrodes, we monitored current production by Mtr respiratory pathway mutants in three-electrode bioreactors under controlled flavin concentrations. While mutants lacking MtrC were able to reduce flavins at 50% of the rate of the wild type in cell suspension assays, these strains were unable to grow into productive electrode-reducing biofilms. The analysis of mutants lacking OmcA suggests a role for this protein in both electron transfer to electrodes and attachment to surfaces. The parallel phenotypes of Mtr mutants in flavin and electrode reduction blur the distinction between direct contact and the redox shuttling strategies of insoluble substrate reduction by MR-1.

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